Dramatic Tape Played At Event
Reveals In-Flight Care For Patient
By LISA WARREN
The new Wellmont One air ambulance service was officially welcomed in Greeneville on Tuesday during a special ribbon-cutting ceremony held at Takoma Regional Hospital.
A large crowd consisting of Wellmont Health System officials, the Wellmont One flight crew, Takoma Hospital employees, Greeneville business leaders and others were on hand for the morning event, which took place next to the helipad on the Takoma Hospital campus.
The Wellmont One medical evacuation helicopter has been in operation at the hospital since March 22 -- and since that time has already flown several life-saving missions, officials said.
The dedication ceremony began with the sounds of a taped radio transmission conversation between the Wellmont One flight crew and the emergency services staff at Holston Valley Medical, as a seriously ill patient was in-route from Takoma Hospital's emergency department to Wellmont's Kingsport-based Level 1 trauma center.
Their voices could be heard over the in-flight sounds of the twin-engine BK-117 helicopter, detailing information about the patient and what care would be needed upon arrival at Holston Valley.
"I can think of several dramatic things to say about what having Wellmont One serving our community will mean for us. However, there is nothing more dramatic than what you just heard," said Takoma Hospital president and CEO Carlyle Walton, after the taped conversation ended.
"What you just heard was not part of a reality show. It was real. It was an actual call from one of Wellmont One's first patient missions in Greene County," Walton said.
"Because of the teamwork between our staff, Wellmont One, and the staff of Holston Valley Medical Center, I'm happy to report that this member of our community is doing well and currently recuperating in the comfort of their own home with their family," Walton said.
"This is a proud day," Walton said about the dedication of Wellmont's new air ambulance service. "It is a proud day, first and foremost, for the Wellmont family, for the Adventist Health System family, and for our hospital -- but, most importantly, it is a proud day for our community to have this service available."
Walton extended his appreciation to Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles, who was on hand for the dedication ceremony, for his help in assisting with establishment of the program.
"Mayor Broyles has worked with the local EMS and with our 911 personnel to appropriately coordinate the utilization of Wellmont One for Greene County and our community," Walton said.
Addressing the flight crew at the event, Mayor Broyles said, "Speaking on behalf of the 60,000-plus Greene County citizens, we're proud that you are here.
"How satisifying it is to know that we have truly dedicated, hard-working, qualified people who are willing and able to provide the kind of services that the people of Greene County deserve. We thank you for that, and we look forward to working with you," the county mayor said.
Greeneville Mayor Darrell Bryan was out of town on Tuesday morning and did not attend the program's dedication.
With the addition of the Wellmont One program at Takoma Hospital, Greeneville now becomes a home base for two air ambulance programs. A Wings Air Rescue helicopter has been based across town at Laughlin Memorial Hospital since last fall.
Will Serve Region
From its base at Takoma, the Wellmont One aircraft will not only be transporting patients from the hospital's emergency department to Level I and Level II trauma centers, but also responding to motor vehicle accidents and other emergency calls throughout East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Southwest Kentucky, officials have said.
The medical air service will also be available to transport patients from other outlying hospitals to facilities where they can receive more advanced, sophisticated medical care.
Jimm Bunch, chairman of the board of directors of Takoma Regional Hospital, said he has witnessed "many positive changes and initiatives" that have occurred as a result of the relationship between the hospital and Wellmont Health System.
The Kingsport-based health system became majority owner of Takoma Hospital about a year ago.
Since that time, "the residents of this community have benefited tremendously and will continue to in the future," Bunch said. "This (air ambulance service) is just one example of that.
Since the partnership began, Bunch said, numerous improvements to Takoma Hospital have been made, including technology additions to the surgical room and nuclear medicine program.
In addition, Cardiovascular Associates have opened an office here enabling board-certified cardiologists to see patients from our community, he said.
"Together we are saving lives and making advancements in health care not only in Greene County but also in the surrounding areas," Bunch said.
"The addition of Wellmont One based here at Takoma Regional Hospital is an example of saving lives and doing what's right for our community from a health-care perspective," Bunch continued.
"That's why we all went into health care. That's why we love health care, and that's why I'm delighted the partnership continues to strengthen this hospital and this community in providing ever better and higher quality care for each one of us," Bunch said.
Different Helicopter Coming
Ron Prewitt, senior vice president of operations and business development for Wellmont Health System, explained that the helicopter currently based at Takoma Hospital will not be Wellmont's primary aircraft.
The helicopter currently being flown in Greene County is being used temporarily while the official Wellmont One helicopter, scheduled to be based at Takoma Hospital, undergoes the final stages of being outfitted for medical use and is painted with a logo composed of the familiar Wellmont colors of blue and green, Prewitt said.
A second Wellmont helicopter will be based in the coming months in Sullivan County, he added.
Prewitt was quick to point out, however, that "a helicopter is not the program" when it comes to emergency air transport service.
"The easiest part of the deal is to get a helicopter," Prewitt said. "It's all about the people -- the people who are going to be taking care of you in the back of the ship while you are being transported. The people will make the difference."
Crew Is Introduced
During the dedication ceremony, Anita Ashby, manager of flight services for Wellmont Health System, introduced the members of the flight crew who make up the Wellmont One flight team.
She praised the experience, talent and dedication of the crew members who have been assembled to serve the new Wellmont One program.
Ashby said Wellmont will begin its second base of air transport operations in Sullivan County in about six months.
"This base will mimic the structure of the Takoma base, and it, too, will have a flight team of nurses, paramedics, pilots and a twin-engine aircraft," she said.
Also speaking at the dedication was A. Lee Shillito, chairman of the Wellmont Health System's board of directors.
"Every day in health care, there are instances where time saved means lives saved -- and that's why we considered it an essential part of our mission to add an air ambulance service," Shillito said.
"Wellmont One can reach those who live in even the farthest corners of our region in a matter of minutes, in places where drive time to the nearest trauma center might be an hour," he added.
Wellmont One will be operated by a flight crew from EraMed, of Coatesville, Pa., and all of the medical personnel will be Wellmont employees.
The air ambulance program will work in conjunction with Med-Flight II, the emergency helicopter service operated by the Virginia State Police and staffed by Wellmont health professionals.
Wellmont One also serves as the exclusive air transport for Bristol Motor Speedway, officials said.
The helicopter currently in service at Takoma Hospital was on hand at the recent NASCAR competition at BMS to serve as the primary aircraft for the race car drivers, Prewitt noted.
In a statement, Dr. Richard Salluzzo, president and CEO of Wellmont, who was not in attendance at the dedication, said, "Our mission as a health care system is to provide everyone in our region cost-effective, convenient access to medical care, and Wellmont One is a key component of that mission.
"We believe everyone should have access to the best in health care - and everyone should have access to it quickly when they need it," he added.