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Ohio Hospital to Employ Medical Helicopter for Newborns

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Nationwide Children's Hospital is spending $7.5 million on a helicopter for transporting newborns and other pediatric patients.

Beginning Feb. 4, the helicopter will not only allow the hospital's transport team to be on its way within 10 minutes of a call, but it also has technology specially suited to baby care, said Dr. Edward Shepherd, the chief of neonatology at the hospital.

"Getting there fast and being able to provide these technologies can potentially be lifesaving," Shepherd said yesterday.

The hospital has been leasing time on helicopters through MedFlight and will continue to use the service when transports overlap.

But the new helicopter, named Monarch 1, holds equipment designed for babies who need help breathing. It is the only one in Ohio equipped to provide such neonatal care, said Ron Stevenson, a regional sales manager for American Eurocopter, the manufacturer.

It also is equipped for low-visibility flying and has the largest patient-care area of any helicopter its size. It is to be used for transports that would otherwise require a one- to four-hour drive.

"We think the first hour, what we call the golden hour, makes a huge difference for the child's outcome and their health later in life," Shepherd said.

About 30 percent of the newborns brought to the hospital require a drive of more than an hour, he said.

The helicopter, to be operated by Metro Aviation and based at Don Scott Field, also will allow hospital staff members to begin treating children sooner, said Amy Haughn, the transport-program manager. "Being able to expedite the transport of these patients and provide the expert care of our team before even being able to reach the bricks and mortar of the hospital is imperative."

The hospital has one of the largest neonatal networks in the United States and transported newborns 1,118 times last year. Shepherd said he doesn't know whether having the aircraft will expand that network, but the hospital will continue to collaborate with others in the region.

Money for the helicopter is coming out of the hospital's capital budget. It shouldn't significantly change expenses for patients as the cost of transport should be covered by insurance or other health coverage, Children's spokeswoman Erin Pope said.

The hospital hopes the service will save patients money by getting them to Children's and into treatment sooner.

The neonatal equipment in the helicopter gives it an advantage over ambulances, Shepherd said.

"We wanted to make sure that we would never have to make the choice between providing the specialized care often needed and being able to get there faster," he said. "No one wants to make that choice."



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