Monday, July 12, 2021

Baptist LifeFlight objects to Escambia's system to dispatch emergency medical helicopters

Baptist LifeFlight is not happy with Escambia County using a competitor helicopter ambulance service, ShandsCair, to dispatch medical helicopters.

The Escambia County Commission held off Thursday approving a formal "first call" agreement with ShandsCair to wait for more data on response times of medical transport helicopters.

Baptist LifeFlight and ShandsCair are the two main providers of emergency medical helicopters in Northwest Florida.

Baptist LifeFlight, which is owned by the Air Methods Corporation, has two helicopters with one operating out of Pensacola and the other out of Niceville. ShandsCair, which is owned by University of Florida Health, has three helicopters with one flying out of Milton, one out of Atmore, Alabama, and one out of Stapleton, Alabama.

Interim Public Safety Director Eric Gilmore said, under the agreement, county dispatch would call ShandsCair which then would dispatch the closest helicopter to the scene whether it was from ShandsCair or Baptist LifeFlight.

Baptist LifeFlight area manager Tony Fleming asked the commission to have the county meet with both companies to work out a better agreement that would have Escambia County call the closest company.

"We have purposely stayed out of the county politics, as evidenced by this being the first time I've spoken to any of you," Fleming said. "This first call agreement will make the only helicopter asset located in Escambia County, Baptist LifeFlight, the third or possibly the fourth called when an emergency arises, even though we are currently the closest aircraft to all of the citizens of Escambia County, south of the Atmore cutoff."

Andy Donaldson with ShandsCair said they have a commitment to finding the closest ready-to-fly helicopter no matter which company owns it.

Donaldson said they were approached by Escambia County following the shooting at NAS Pensacola in December 2019 when Baptist LifeFlight was called to the scene.

"The closest aircraft that was sent by Air Methods Corporation (Baptist LifeFlight) was from the Niceville area," Donaldson said. "We were roughly 10 minutes away. A choice is made for those unfortunate people that had no say."

Gilmore said the county has been operating this way essentially under "a handshake agreement" for all of 2020, and the vast majority of calls went to Baptist LifeFlight.

Numbers presented by ShandsCair showed that in the past year Baptist LifeFlight received 379 calls while ShandsCair and its affiliates received 129 calls.

Fleming said they have data as well that shows a five- to seven-minute delay in dispatching the calls because the calls have to be routed by Escambia County to ShandsCair and then to Baptist LifeFlight.

"That matters in times of crisis," Fleming said.

Donaldson disputed that it was that long of a delay saying their average handoff time is 70 to 90 seconds.

Commissioners asked that Gilmore gather the data from both companies and come back to the board with a presentation on how the county should move forward.

"When I stepped in to do this job, my concern is getting the best patient care to our people of Escambia County, period," Gilmore said. "It doesn't matter what the name of helicopter says, it's who's going to get there first, who's going to give me the best care. That's all I care about."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.