Thursday, August 03, 2017

UNC to Base Medical Helicopter at Moore County Airport (KSOP)

During a recent four-day period, Carolina Air Care was was called into Moore County five times to airlift patients — four from traffic accidents and another suffering a traumatic head injury from a fall.

While that frequency may not be the norm, Moore County has the second highest number of calls for the critical care transport agency operated by UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, according to Christian Lawson, its director of emergency services. So when the agency began looking for a place to relocate a helicopter and three-member crew now based at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, Moore County was the logical choice, he said.

Carolina Air Care will move its operation the Moore County Airport later this month or early September.

“We enjoy working with Moore County EMS, the citizens and the surrounding area,” Lawson said. “They recognized that there is a need for this. As we looked around for a new location, we realized there was only one place where we wanted to be.”

Lawson said Carolina Air Care averages about 35 calls a year in Moore County to airlift accident victims. That is second only to Alamance County, he said.

Moving the crew was necessary because Cape Fear Valley Medical Center is starting its own air care service.

Lawson said Carolina Air Care already has a ground critical-care transport team based at the FirstHealth laundry facility on N.C. 5 in Aberdeen, which has living quarters for its crew. It has been there for about a year. In addition to transporting patients to Chapel Hill, it can also serve as backup for Moore County EMS, he said.

“We work closely with FirstHealth,” Lawson said. “It has been good. We receive a lot of patients from them, especially pediatric.”

Lawson said he has been with UNC Hospitals for more than two years and has been meeting local EMS officials in the roughly 20 counties it serves. He said Moore County officials and the airport were very receptive about Carolina Air Care basing one of its helicopters here.

“We are extremely excited about coming here and providing this critical asset,” he said.

Carolina Air Care also has helicopters based in Goldsboro and Siler City and is planning to locate another one in Franklin County, Lawson said. The agency also has a jet for interstate patient transport, he added.

Moore County Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips said in an interview Wednesday that UNC’s decision will benefit Moore.

“It is going to be very positive,” he said. “It will mean much quicker response times. We are one of their largest users. It will be great to have them based here at our airport.”

Victims of traffic wrecks and other accidents who suffer traumatic injuries are typically airlifted to a hospital designated by the state as a Level 1 trauma center. There are six in North Carolina — in addition to UNC Hospitals, they are Duke University Hospital, North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem, Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, Wake Med in Raleigh and Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

Details of the lease agreement are still being worked out between Carolina Air Care and the Moore County Airport.

Airport Authority Chairman Bob Zschoche said the agency will lease ground space for a facility to house its crew. The airport does not have a hanger space for the helicopter and maintains a waiting list.

In the interim, Lawson said the agency will put in a modular unit to house its three-member team, which includes a paramedic, nurse and pilot. He said each base has 24 staff members who typically live within 40 to 50 miles. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Lawson said the agency is still trying to determine whether it will build its own hanger for the helicopter.

Zschoche said he is pleased that the airport is able to accommodate Carolina Air Care.

“We welcome them as a new tenant,” Zschoche said. “We are glad to have them and wish them all the best. We plan to do everything we can to assist them.”

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