The new Air St. Luke’s ambulance and its crew are up and running emergency transfers directly from St. Luke’s McCall.
The newly hired team of two registered nurses and two EMTs transferred their first patient the same day the ambulance arrived, last Wednesday.
The need for the hospital to acquire its own ambulance was driven by the dwindling availability of non-emergency ground transportation resources.
Over the past several years, St. Luke’s McCall has partnered with local Valley County EMS providers and Air St. Luke’s to serve patients requiring ground transfer via ambulance to Boise for specialized care not offered at St. Luke’s McCall. Last fall, the local services notified the hospital they no longer had the resources available to transfer medical patients to Boise via ambulance, given the priority need to respond to emergency 911 calls.
Air St. Luke’s has filled the gap over the past several months as St. Luke’s McCall, the McCall Memorial Hospital District and Air St. Luke’s worked on the plan for the dedicated ambulance service. The on-call team now in place will work in pairs, providing 24/7 coverage.
“Coordinating the purchase and hiring new staff for our new ambulance took a lot of planning,” St. Luke’s McCall Chief Operating Officer/Chief Nursing Officer Amber Green said. “It’s exciting to have it on campus and ready to serve our patients who need to be transferred to Boise.”
Air St. Luke’s will continue to provide transportation via helicopter or airplane for time-sensitive emergencies such as stroke, heart attack, life-threatening trauma and high-risk obstetric situations.
“In time-sensitive emergencies, we always send patients by air,” St. Luke’s McCall Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Todd Arndt said. “If stability is ever in question, we err on the side of caution and request air transport unless weather prevents us from flying.”
The purchase of the ambulance was made possible through the support of the McCall Memorial Hospital District. The district approved $450,000 of funding to support medical transport services last September. The cost of the ambulance was $330,000. This includes the vehicle and necessary equipment, ventilator, radio and laptops. The remaining balance of $113,000 will go to offset crew expenses.
To increase safety for medical transfers on winding mountain roads and in winter conditions, the new ambulance has four-wheel drive and an air bag system that includes six airbags in the back of the unit. The crew caring for the patient has the extra benefit of shoulder harness restraints that allow the crew to continue to provide care if needed during transport, minimizing potential injury during sudden stops and braking.
Air St. Luke’s EMS Manager Randy Morris was in McCall training the team and was the driver on the first transfer. After the crew arrived in Boise, he asked both the patient and transport partner Greg Ferguson, RN, how the trip was. Both reported they felt safe on a smooth journey.
“We’re grateful we are able to tap into our St. Luke’s Health System and Hospital District resources to support meeting this critical need for our communities,” Green said.
Laura Crawford works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.