News Article - January 31, 2008

  LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. - Lancaster County's first locally based medical-emergency helicopter service is up and running. University MedEvac, a joint operation of Hahnemann University Hospital in central Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, set up shop Jan. 15 at Lancaster Airport to transport patients to nearby hospitals and trauma centers.

   Hal Spatz, University MedEvac director, said a two-person medical team, a pilot and a EC-135 Eurocopter-brand helicopter will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet local demand for emergency trauma responses and inter-hospital patient transport. To start the program, University MedEvac shifted one of two helicopters here from a Montgomery County location.

   "We relocated to Lancaster to try to provide service and get aircraft in an area where there is an increasing population, increasing activity and no other medical helicopter," Spatz said Wednesday. The chopper can reach any area of Lancaster County within 15 minutes, he said.

   The new unit was linked to the Lancaster County 911 center Jan. 18. It has yet to be called to airlift local trauma victims, but it already has ferried patients between area hospitals. Prior to Jan. 18, injured victims requiring air transport in Lancaster County relied on service from units based in Coatesville, Hershey or Philadelphia or from another University MedEvac unit based in Allentown, according to Lancaster County dispatchers. Established in 1987, University MedEvac has several locations and serves eastern Pennsylvania, southeastern New York, New Jersey, Delaware and northeastern Maryland.

   The service is one of the busiest in Pennsylvania, transporting more than 500 patients per aircraft, according to a 2006 news story. The unit at Lancaster Airport will provide any type of air medical transport for seriously injured or seriously ill patients, Spatz said. He expects the unit to split duty equally on trauma cases and other transport.

   "It will be used in trauma cases at the scene of an accident or a serious injury, but there can be advantages for certain types of strokes or certain cardiac situations," Spatz said. Besides serving Lancaster County, the local University MedEvac will supplement existing medical helicopter services in "the surrounding contiguous counties," Spatz said. Helicopters fly at speeds of 140 mph to 180 mph and heights of 2,000-3,000 feet.

Source - Lancaster Online