Check out TriStar’s $8M helicopter, part of the health system’s unique Skylife program

The twin-engine H145 helicopter, that is larger than typical medical helicopters, can pick up patients as far as 300 miles away and is furnished with specialized equipment, such as an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) respiratory machine.

Patients in need of critical care have a new multimillion-dollar way to travel to TriStar Health facilities.

The Nashville-based health system has partnered with Global Medical Response subsidiary Med-Trans Corporation to launch TriStar Skylife — a new specialized air medical transport program that can pick up and transfer patients as far as 300 miles away

The program features an $8 million, twin-engine H145 helicopter that is larger than typical medical helicopters, TriStar vice president of Network Development Charlotte Burns said, and is furnished with specialized equipment, such as an ECMO (e*xtracorporeal membrane oxygenation) respiratory machine. The vehicle also has tools to treat high-risk obstetric patients and neonatal intensive care unit patients, the only medical air transport in the region with those capabilities.

The helicopter is operated by Med-Trans, while all medical services are provided by TriStar.

You can check out the Skylife helicopter — which can fit up to six people, including the patient — in the photos below.

The aircraft is based at TriStar Centennial Medical Center, where TriStar has invested approximately $1 million to build a new helipad for Skylife, TriStar CEO Mitch Edgeworth said.

Burns said the vision for the Skylife program came in 2018 from cardiologist Thomas McRae, who said the region’s cardiogenic shock patients were suffering or dying because they couldn’t reach specialty care in a timely manner. ECMO machines, which can act as cardiogenic shock patients’ heart and lungs, are not only rare in helicopters, but are also uncommon in rural hospitals.

“ECMO has become really popular with Covid-19 patients but at the time it was focused more on treating cardiogenic shock patients,” Burns said. “Now, we’re actually going to the scene, the outlying hospitals, and cannulating the patients and putting them on this ECMO machine before we even bring them back to Centennial and it’s saving lives.”

Burns said she expects Skylife, which can also carry non-specialized patients, to transport around 500 patients a year. The helicopter has already flown as far as Illinois and Northeast Georgia to bring patients life-saving care.

Edgeworth said the helicopter will also be critical in bringing burn patients from East Tennessee and other areas to TriStar Skyline’s new burn unit that is under development.

“We are excited to see that the early success is very obvious for us. The first few months of operation have really demonstrated to us that this is a need that the community and the market had for us,” Edgeworth said. “Those early signs are giving us optimism and hope that we continue this journey and expand.”

© 2021 Trenton Curtis Media Broadcasting Publications

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