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Medical center announces switch to independent air ambulance services

By Amy Agronis on September 24, 2004 in University

As part of a national trend in trauma center operations, UC Davis Medical Center officials this month announced the hospital will no longer manage and operate its own helicopter transport service. The services will instead be provided by outside air ambulance companies.

"Because helicopter transport is a highly specialized service, it is best provided by programs that focus on that alone," said Robert Chason, chief executive officer of the medical center. "And as inland California's only academic medical center, we can best serve the people of our region by focusing on our unique role as national leaders in emergency and critical care medicine."

UC Davis Medical Center last year eliminated one of its two Life Flight helicopters. The last helicopter is now being eliminated. The nurses who have staffed the helicopter will be eligible for positions in intensive care units and other areas where their advanced skills are in high demand. Dispatchers also will be eligible for other positions within the health system.

UC Davis Medical Center established a helicopter program in 1984 as part of its commitment to improve trauma care in the region. At that time, the preventable death rate in the Sacramento region exceeded 16 percent; there was no paramedic system, no medical helicopter transport service, and no comprehensive trauma-care system. Since that time, the medical center has helped trim the preventable death rate to its current less than 1 percent.

The UC Davis trauma program is widely regarded as one of the best in the nation, and UC Davis experts contributed to many of the standards of care recommended by the American College of Surgeons for the treatment of traumatic injuries.

Most helicopter transports to UC Davis are transfers of pediatric patients from other hospitals. Independent helicopter services have performed these transfers for many years.

Around the nation and state, major medical centers increasingly are relying on independent air ambulance programs rather than operating their own helicopters, Chason said.

The region's air ambulance companies are fully accredited by the national Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. These include CALSTAR (California Shock Trauma Air Rescue) and REACH Air Medical Services.

Media contact(s)

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,