DHART air ambulance honored for safety record
A just-published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that trauma patients transported to level 1 or level 2 trauma centers have better rates of survival when transported by helicopter than by ground ambulance. That’s not really news to members of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team (DHART), which has been saving lives for nearly 20 years, and has now been honored for its longstanding commitment to safety and patient service.
The New England Helicopter Council (NEHC) presented its 2012 Safety Award to DHART and its aviation services provider, Metro Aviation, Inc, at the Council’s annual meeting on April 17 in Tewksbury, MA.
NEHC’s Safety Award recognizes individuals and groups for excellence in rotorcraft aviation safety and honors those who have displayed outstanding service on behalf of safety, whether for valor, professionalism or service above and beyond normal expectation.
“DHART and Metro Aviation have earned this award as a result of their innovative operating practices and impeccable safety record,” said NEHC board member Scott Dodge. “The combination of Metro Aviation’s professionalism and commitment to aviation safety and DHART’s expertise in emergency medical care have created and an industry leading collaboration in aero-medical transportation.”
DHART pilots use state of the art tools, such as night vision goggles, weather radar and GPS to fly special instrument approach procedures to hospitals when visibility may be limited. Aircraft are dispatched using a real-time, satellite-based, tracking system. The air medical staff and helicopter mechanics are highly experienced professionals who regularly participate in rigorous professional continuing education.
To further enhance safety, DHART is currently developing special Helicopter Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) approaches and fully-integrated connecting routes to 30 hospitals in New Hampshire and Vermont. This first-in-the-world project will allow DHART helicopters to respond safely, even in some challenging weather conditions.
“It is an honor to accept this award on behalf of the women and men of DHART,” said DHART Program Manager Frank Erdman. “Our crews exemplify Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s ongoing mission of improving population health, and providing the best care possible, quickly and safely, to patients all around northern New England.”
DHART medical teams are comprised of critical care nurses, paramedics, and respiratory care practitioners. Medical crewmembers have, on average, 16 years’ critical care and/or EMS experience. The pilot staff is similarly well qualified. Pilots are required to be instrument rated and have a minimum of 2,500 hours flight time as pilot in command. Safe operation in the challenging air medical profession requires pilots to maintain night and instrument flight proficiency.
Since its inception in July, 1994, DHART – New Hampshire’s only air ambulance service – has transported more than 14,500 patients in the air over 1,510,000 miles. DHART operates two helicopters: one at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, and a second based at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, NH. The DHART program also includes two ground-based ambulances based in Lebanon. Although DHART is most visible when transporting trauma patients from accident scenes, approximately 75% of the program’s work involves transporting critically ill or injured patients from one hospital to another, when the time it takes for a patient to receive the most appropriate care makes all the difference in terms of outcome.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock is a national leader in evidence-based and patient-centered health care. The system includes hundreds of physicians, specialists, and other providers who work together at different locations to meet the health care needs of patients in northern New England. In addition to primary care services at local community practices, Dartmouth-Hitchcock patients have access to specialists in almost every area of medicine, as well as world-class research at the Audrey and Theodor Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and centers of excellence including The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice (TDI).