Lutheran Adding Second Helicopter At Wabash

To expand patient access to critical and specialty care, a second Lutheran Air medical helicopter will be added to Lutheran Hospital’s critical care transport fleet early this fall.

The home base for Lutheran Air II will be Wabash Municipal Airport, a geographically important location for patients living in communities that make up the southern and western portions of Lutheran Health Network’s 23-county service area.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for Lutheran Air II’s new hangar will take place at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at Wabash Municipal Airport. Leaders from the city and county of Wabash, The Hagerman Group, Lutheran Hospital and local first responders are scheduled to be in attendance. Lutheran is contracting with Hagerman to build the hangar.

“I’m excited about having a medical helicopter based in Wabash,” said Wabash Mayor Robert Vanlandingham. “Our local fire department and medical personnel at Wabash County Hospital provide excellent ‘on the ground’ service for our community. The presence of the helicopter will allow us quicker access to more specialized medical facilities when needed.”

Because of the growing number of requests it receives to fly patients to facilities in and out of its own network, the Lutheran Air flight program has recently found it necessary to turn down a significant number of transports because the helicopter is already in use. As Lutheran Air has become more established as an option for air medical transport, Lutheran Health Network has worked with multiple communities and hospitals to address their specific needs.

“The decision to base our new helicopter in this regionally significant location was made easier because of the strong commitment Wabash has always made to improving the lives of its residents, especially those living in rural areas,” said Brian Bauer, chief executive officer, Lutheran Hospital and Lutheran Health Network. “We are dedicated to supporting first responders and caregivers throughout northeastern Indiana by providing them with the tools necessary to get their patients the highest level of care available as quickly and safely as possible.”

Even before its arrival, the addition of Lutheran Air II, an EC135 aircraft, will lead to the creation of more than 10 new positions on Lutheran’s critical care transport team, including pilots, flight mechanics and medical crew members. Economic development leaders in Wabash County applaud the addition of jobs and the construction of the hangar that will generate new property taxes and local income taxes.

“Healthcare is a target industry of Wabash County,” said Bill Konyha, president and chief executive officer, Economic Development Group of Wabash County. “Investments in healthcare and related businesses result in the creation of some of the highest paying jobs in the area. We view this project as critical healthcare infrastructure supporting Wabash County Hospital and our residents.”

The Hagerman Group is also making it a priority to utilize as many Wabash area contractors and suppliers as possible to construct the hangar that’s scheduled to be ready later this year.

Lutheran contracts with Air Methods to provide the aircraft, pilots and flight mechanics. Air Methods is the only air medical operator in the country to reach Level 4 of the voluntary Safety Management System program overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration. To achieve SMS Level 4, Air Methods implemented multiple voluntary safety programs more commonly associated with commercial airlines such as United/Continental, Delta and American.

Although Lutheran Air is primarily known for transporting seriously injured patients from the scene of an accident or burn patients, another important service of the flight program is to quickly transport patients who are in need of advanced cardiac care. Lutheran Air is part of a full spectrum of critical and specialty services offered by the Lutheran Health Network which includes Level II adult and pediatric trauma centers at Lutheran Hospital and the St. Joseph Regional Burn Center.

Lutheran Hospital offers American College of Surgeons-verified adult and pediatric trauma centers. Both centers earned the Level II designation in 2009 and achieved reverification in 2012. The medical director of Lutheran’s level II pediatric trauma center is David A. Smith, MD. The medical director of Lutheran’s level II adult trauma center is Donald N. Reed Jr., MD.

Dr. Reed is a member of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma. The Committee on Trauma exists to create education, professional development, standards of care and outcomes assessment programs used in the implementation and development of local, regional, national and international trauma programs. Dr. Reed also serves on the Indiana State Trauma Care Committee. He has held this governor-appointed role since June 2010.

After becoming the first hospital in northeastern Indiana to achieve accreditation as a chest pain center in 2004, Lutheran set out to build the Level 1 Heart network that was introduced in 2008 to enhance the level of care for acute heart attack patients across the region. Level I Heart incorporates a phone system that connects regional hospitals to Lutheran and alerts the ER so that physicians and staff in the cardiac catheterization lab or surgery department are ready to expedite care upon the patient’s arrival at the hospital.

In addition to Lutheran Air, Lutheran’s critical care transport fleet also includes four mobile intensive care units, or MICUs, two of which are in service 24/7. Lutheran Air began transporting patients in 2004. Lutheran Air II is scheduled to arrive in October.

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