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ShandsCair extends emergency medical helicopter service into northwest Florida

North central and northwest Florida residents now will have a shorter wait for emergency medical air transportation thanks to the establishment of a new regional helicopter base in Taylor County.

ShandsCair, the aeromedical and critical care transport system for UF&Shands, the University of Florida Academic Health Center, on Nov. 1 launched its new service on the Doctors’ Memorial Hospital campus in Perry, Fla., midway between Gainesville and Tallahassee.

“The new base will be a boon to residents in the Big Bend area of the state, greatly enhancing emergency response capabilities in that region,” said Ed Jimenez, Shands at UF senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Called ShandsCair 3, the new service will complement the work of Doctors’ Memorial Hospital EMS, Taylor County’s premier emergency medical services provider. ShandsCair will provide a 24/7 flight nurse/paramedic and paramedic, and Med-Trans Corp. will provide pilots, mechanics and aircraft. ShandsCair already has bases in Alachua and Marion counties.

“Now we are able to more quickly transport trauma and medical patients to the most appropriate facility throughout Florida and the Southeast,” said Staccie Allen, R.N., E.M.T.-P., ShandsCair program director.

Between now and January 2013, ShandsCair 3 will operate a Bell 407 helicopter, which then will be replaced with a new twin-engine EC135 that has several operational enhancements and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Instrument Flight Rules designation, which enables safe operation in lower visibility conditions.

“Injuries and illness don’t wait for good weather, so it’s important that we are able to respond as quickly as possible,” said Mark Womack, lead pilot for the ShandsCair program.

ShandsCair is headquartered at Shands at the UF in Gainesville, which operates the only Level I

trauma center in north central Florida. This connection allows for a seamless transition between inflight and inpatient care.“Through advanced protocols, training and the coordination of our aeromedical and ground transport fleets, we are able to deliver patients wherever they need to go, quickly, safely and with a high level of care,” Allen said.

Last year ShandsCair celebrated its 30th year of service to north central Florida. The program began in December 1981 with a flight to West Palm Beach to bring a patient back to Shands at UF. Since then, ShandsCair has served more than 48,000 patients.

“We’re proud that our growing ShandsCair program will help us serve even more patients at the times when they need it most.” Jimenez said.

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