Allegheny Health Network’s LifeFlight air medical transport program, the first service of its kind in the northeastern United States, is marking 35 years of helping critically injured people get life-saving treatment as quickly as possible.
LifeFlight provides regional emergency helicopter and critical care ground transportation services for critically ill and injured patients who need immediate specialized care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To date, LifeFlight has completed more than 70,000 missions, working side-by-side with EMS providers and community hospitals in a four-state area serving western Pennsylvania, southeastern Ohio, northern West Virginia and western Maryland.
“In its 35 years of existence, LifeFlight has set the standard for excellence in the field of critical care transport medicine,” said Medical Director P.S. Martin, MD. “I am honored to work with those who pioneered the program and those who continue to make it work so well.”
Starting in 1978 with a single French-made Aloutte helicopter, LifeFlight continued to grow significantly over the years, expanding to its current five-helicopter fleet with regional bases in Washington, Indiana, Butler, and Westmoreland counties.
In 2008, LifeFlight took the significant step of upgrading its fleet with state of the art American Eurocopter EC-145 aircraft. These helicopters are
, equipped with some of the
most advanced patient care technology, avionics, and safety features including terrain and collision avoidance devices as well as night vision goggles.
“The value of experienced, exceptional prehospital medical support services cannot be underestimated with regards to a community’s health and emergency preparedness,” said Cathy Fackovec, Vice President, Operations , Allegheny General Hospital.
For 35 years, LifeFlight has been a central component of Allegheny Health Network’s identity as one of the region’s preeminent healthcare providers, enabling us to fulfill our mission by expediting the delivery of specialty care to patients in even the most remote communities. The success of LifeFlight is a testament to the dedication, skill and compassion of every health care professional who has been associated with the program through the years – flight nurses, pilots, mechanics, communications specialists and support personnel.
“Our dedicated, experienced team of flight nurseshold additional certification for prehospital care and have been trained to manage complex cases such as patients requiring intra-aortic balloon pumps or extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation and to perform emergent procedures, generally reserved for physicians ” said Jim Palafoutas, Director of Operations for the Flight program “ In addition, they are all required to hold advanced certifications, and many of them remain active in their communities’ fire and EMS services.”
Pilots and Mechanics, provided by Metro Aviation, have extensive training on LifeFlight helicopters. Their expertise during flight, use of the complex avionics to provide a safe and expeditious flight and their years of experience make for a safe flight environment. The skill and dedication of this team of aviation professional is outstanding.
The evolution of hospital based air-medical transport programs in the late 1970s is credited with significantly improving a critically injured patient’s chance of survival. Such programs have dramatically increased the percentage of sick or injured patients who reach trauma centers within the ideal “golden hour,” the time period after an injury has been sustained.
Helicopters are capable of covering distances ten times faster than emergency ground transportation and rapidly delivering highly trained personnel to the patient. In the process of doing so, they provide access to specialty life-saving interventions for those suffering from trauma, heart attacks, strokes, and other critical illnesses. Such access can be profoundly important to the outcomes of patients in rural areas, where specialty care is often limited.
LifeFlight transports patients from within a 130-mile radius of its primary bases, a service that reaches a population of more than 4 million people throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland. In additional to transporting traumatically injured patients from the scenes of accidents, LifeFlight also performs hospital-to-hospital transports of critically ill patients, such as those with acute cardiac failure, and infants who require neonatal intensive care.