One of two medical helicopters now based in Omaha will be moved to Fremont to shorten the time it takes to provide care to people in Dodge County and the surrounding area.
Officials with LifeNet Air Medical Services analyzed patient transport data for the past two years and found the majority originated from the Fremont area, said Chris Burns, regional vice president for Air Methods, LifeNet's parent company. It made sense, he said, to base a helicopter there.
“By putting the aircraft where the calls are coming from instead of where the calls are going to, it has a tendency to make us more responsive to the patients,” said Craig Yale, Air Methods' vice president of corporate development.
That means the LifeNet crew and helicopter now based at Omaha's Creighton University Medical Center will be based instead at the Fremont Area Medical Center, 31 miles northwest. The helicopter based at the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus in Omaha will remain there.
“I think it's a huge benefit for us,” said Pat Callaway, the Fremont hospital's emergency department director. “It will cut down our flight times transporting patients out by a good 15 to 20 minutes. Outcome-wise, I think it will make a huge difference.”
A study published in 2012 in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the outcomes of trauma patients transported by ground services and by helicopter. Among patients with major trauma admitted to level I (the highest level) or level II trauma centers, the study found that helicopter transport was associated with improved survival compared with ground services.
LifeNet said the helicopters' average speed is 135 mph.
With a major traumatic injury, “they always talk about the 'golden hour,' which is the time from the injury to arrival at a facility capable of providing appropriate care for that patient,” said Dr. Brian Cunningham, emergency department medical director at the Fremont hospital. “A 20-minute difference, that's a 30 percent improvement on that golden-hour time frame.”
In addition to patients involved in car crashes or farm-related accidents, Cunningham said, LifeNet also transports many heart attack and stroke patients from the area.
With the move, effective Monday, the helicopter based in Fremont will be operational 24 hours a day. When it was based at the Creighton medical center, it was operational for 12 hours a day.
The Fremont hospital will provide office space and sleeping quarters to the LifeNet crews, made up of a pilot, a nurse and a paramedic.
The move to Fremont has nothing to do with a review of facilities and services provided at Alegent Creighton Health hospitals, said Dr. Keith Clancy, medical director of Creighton medical center's trauma center.
The Omaha Fire Department doesn't put all its rescue squads in its downtown headquarters and dispatch them to west Omaha, Clancy said. Fire officials, he said, strategically place squads out among the population they serve. “LifeNet's relocation,” he said, “in many ways is a similar situation.”
In this region, LifeNet also has helicopters and crews based in Norfolk; Clarinda, Iowa; and St. Joseph, Mo.