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UF Health celebrates the arrival of new ShandsCair helicopter

On Friday, May 30, UF Health celebrates the arrival of the newest member of the ShandsCair fleet — an EC-155 — the largest, fastest and most advanced civilian aeromedicine helicopter in the Southeast. The new helicopter, specially modified for aeromedicine, has been assigned the designation of ShandsCair 1 and replaces the smaller EC-135 in use at ShandsCair’s Gainesville base during the past year.

“This addition is much more than just a new helicopter for UF Health,” said Ed Jimenez, UF Health senior vice president and chief operating officer. “It is a lifeline for residents of north central Florida — and the entire state — who require advanced critical care during their transport.”

Flying at speeds reaching 180 mph, the new orange and blue helicopter is equipped to carry as many as two patients and a three-member flight team — in addition to the pilot — up to 360 nautical miles, enabling specialized medical teams to transport patients to Gainesville from as far away as the Florida Keys, Atlanta or Pensacola without stopping to refuel. By comparison, the two ShandsCair EC-135s at the Perry and Summerfield bases can transport one patient plus two crew members and travel at speeds of approximately 135 mph within a smaller geographical area.

“This helicopter expands our capability to transport even the most complicated cases — including patients with ventricular assist devices or balloon pumps, high-risk obstetric patients and newborns, and bariatric patients — faster and farther than ever before,” said Staccie Allen, R.N., ShandsCair flight program director. “The level of care we provide is significantly enhanced by the increased speed and distance we now can travel.”

When the time came to plan the replacement of its Gainesville-based aircraft, it became clear that a $12 million investment in a new helicopter to expand the capacity to serve patients throughout Florida and improve hospital transport times was the appropriate decision. Med-Trans Corporation, a leading air-medical operator based out of Lewisville, Texas, operates ShandsCair’s new EC-155 as well as the two EC-135s in the fleet.

“ShandsCair is recognized as one of the foremost air medical flight programs in the industry,” said Rob Hamilton, chief operating officer of Med-Trans. “We very much value our partnership with UF Health and we are pleased to play a role in their ongoing dedication and service to the many critical patients in need of air medical transport throughout the ShandsCair service region.”

Approximately 40 percent of ShandsCair’s 4,700 annual transports are dispatched in response to prehospital emergencies. The remaining percentage involve interfacility transports, where specialized medical crews bring patients from other hospitals to UF Health Shands Hospital, often transferring patients who are too ill to be transported by other aeromedicine or EMS agencies.

“With this helicopter, we truly are bringing UF Health to the patient,” Jimenez said. “From the moment ShandsCair arrives, patients begin receiving the same state-of-the-art advanced care for which UF Health is known. This continuity of care provides patients the best care possible anywhere in the state.”

Every ShandsCair transport, whether by helicopter, ambulance or fixed-wing airplane, is staffed by a unique combination of medical personnel selected to meet the specific needs of the patient being transported.

“Depending on the needs of the patient, we select paramedics, physicians, perfusionists, respiratory therapists, nurses or specialists from numerous disciplines so we can provide the right care for every patient, every transport,” Allen said.

ShandsCair began operations in 1981 with the first patient flight from West Palm Beach. The program has since grown to become the premier aeromedicine program in Florida, with a dedicated staff of 98 flight-trained medical personnel.

Med-Trans Corporation’s extensive fleet delivers teams of professionally trained medical and flight professionals to patients requiring emergency medical care and transports to the appropriate medical facility. The company offers customized air-medical programs through specialized delivery formats, including alternative delivery models, community-based models or traditional hospital-based models.

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