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Published on May 28, 2019

helicopters in flight

New Gundersen medical helicopter takes flight

Gundersen Health System's new emergency medical helicopter is the world's first of its kind.

The GundersenAIR EC145e helicopter is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, navigation and communications capabilities, including a satellite flight-following system which precisely tracks the aircraft's path minute by minute.

GundersenAIR's service area encompasses a 150-mile radius of La Crosse, including communities throughout western Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota. It bases helicopters in Decorah, Iowa, and Sparta, Wis., to allow for more rapid response to patients in our region and faster transport times to La Crosse.

With two helicopters providing service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, GundersenAIR can handle a greater volume of flights from regional hospitals and accident scenes through Gundersen Health System's 21-county service area.

A crew of 25 critical care nurses averaging 17 years of experience and specially-trained flight paramedics averaging 15 years of experience, plus eight pilots, complete about 700 flights annually.

Equipment available to the flight team during transports include:

  • Medications and emergency equipment for advanced life support
  • Cardiac monitor, defibrillator and transcutaneous pacemaker
  • Intra-aortic balloon pump
  • Ventricular assist devices
  • Ventilator, oxygen and advanced airway equipment
  • Pulse oximetry and capnometry
  • Intravenous fluids and infusion pumps
  • Chest tube insertion and drainage systems
  • Spine stabilization equipment
  • Burn care supplies
  • ECMO

Both of GundersenAIR's crafts accept a neonatal isolette for critically ill newborns and infants needing transport, says Terri Wenthold, chief flight nurse, GundersenAIR.

Onboard for neonatal transports will be Gundersen's specially trained team, which includes a neonatal nurse practitioner, neonatal transport nurse or neonatal physician assistant, a respiratory therapist and a flight nurse or paramedic. Our board-certified neonatologists or pediatric critical care physicians are available for consultation.

"We bring our neonatal critical care staff right to them and provide rapid transport," says Jeff Hillesland, MD, medical director, GundersenAIR.

All hospital-to-hospital transfers require physician-to-physician communication. Once that occurs, other personnel may act on the physician's behalf in requesting GundersenAIR by calling (800) 527-1200 or by using the Gundersen transport dashboard, if available. Be prepared with:

  • The names of the referring physician, hospital or agency
  • A phone number if a call-back is necessary for additional information
  • The patient's name, age, weight and date of birth
  • A description of the patient's illness or injury, vital signs, medications and reasons for air transport
  • Access to and copies of the patient's medical record, labs and test results
  • Confirmation that patient/family consent has been discussed and signed
  • Requests for specialized equipment or medications that will be needed by the flight team
  • Questions regarding patient management or transfer criteria prior to the team's dispatch or their arrival to your location
what to expect

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