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New S.C. Hospital Will Have Fully Staffed Medevac Base

LAVONIA, S.C. -- A medical transport service will be offered at Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center in Lavonia.

At a Meet the Doctors reception this week in Hartwell for the hospital, NGTC Health partners Joe Slattery and Larry Unger said the hospital is working with Air Methods Medical Transport to have a full-time helicopter service.

Colorado-based Air Methods will operate a base out of the hospital, which is set to open July 1.

While Air Methods already operates a number of community bases in Georgia, this will be the agency's first hospital base, and it will be full-service, Unger said.

"They're going to be staffed 24-7 with pilots, a nursing team, and crew support," he said. "We will have a facility on the hospital campus with living quarters there."

The helicopter dispatch room will be in a section of the emergency room wing. The helipad is at ground level just outside the emergency room sliding doors.

"They will have the ability to fuel their helicopter," Slattery said. "They won't have fuel tanks there, but they will have a fuel truck who will come from the Franklin County airport to refuel the aircraft."

Slattery said they will be able to pick up patients along the Interstate and take them to any hospital in the area.

Unger said Air Methods approached NGTC Health last year about having a base at the Lavonia hospital.

"Most of the bigger hospitals buy their own helicopter, which costs about $3-4 million," he said. "Then they have to staff it, and it's extremely expensive. It's generally a loss leader for trauma centers. But in our case, Air Methods is going to come in and fund all of the equipment and the staff."

Air Methods' 400-plus fleet is made up of American Eurocopter and Bell Helicopter aircraft.

According to its website, the company has invested more than $80 million in advancing safety programs and technologies, adding all new and refurbished aircraft. The expenses include night vision goggles, Helicopter Terrain Avoidance Warning Systems, XM Satellite weather, and satellite tracking.

Unger said Ty Cobb will get a brand new helicopter for the new Air Methods base.

The Air Methods team, Unger said, will also be available to help hospitals and emergency medical services departments across northeast Georgia.

"Not only Hart and Franklin counties, but also Stephens, Banks, Madison, Elbert and Oglethorpe counties, so this will be a tremendous asset for people living in that area," he said.

Unger said Air Methods will also call on its staff and helicopters from their South Carolina base if needed to respond to emergencies.

At the reception Monday, Air Methods regional commander Chad Black and several of his staff landed near Cornerstone Baptist Church and were available to answer people's questions.



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