Zack Lancaster placed a radio call to make it official.
“Helicopter 893 Alpha Uniform officially relocating,” he spoke into the handheld device at the dedication ceremony for Augusta University Health’s AirCare permanent hangar Feb. 23 at Augusta Regional Airport.
The voice of AirCom on the other end acknowledged his statement and welcomed the helicopter home.
Lancaster, the program director as well as a flight nurse and flight medic, said as wonderful as the facility is what truly makes it remarkable is the “156 years of clinical experience, the 28,000 hours of flight experience and the 47 years of helicopter maintenance experience” that the members of the AirCare team hold.
Announced in February 2021, Augusta University Health launched the air medical program in partnership with Metro Aviation.
“AU Health is the only hospital in the region with air transport capabilities available and that service now has a permanent place to call home. It may be steel and dry wall, but it is the testament of our commitment to providing world class care in Augusta,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, AU Health vice president and chief medical officer.
In its short existence, the program has already made a “profound impact,” he said.
It’s been used not only to transport patients from rural areas of Georgia, but more than 700 patients have been transported to four additional states – Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida.
The hangar provides a location for the helicopter and serves as a base for the medical team who are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Kim Basso, director of women’s and children’s services, called the permanent hangar the “gold standard” and said the AirCare staff members have gone through extensive training and hold multiple certifications.
Also part of Thursday’s ceremony was Herbert Judon, executive director of the Augusta Regional Airport.
“This is a momentous occasion from the airport’s perspective. We’re really happy to partner with Augusta U and the AirCare operation,” he said.
He said it aligns with many strategic goals of the airport particularly growth and service.
“No doubt this particular facility will help spur growth at the airport,” he said.
But the purpose of AirCare is to serve, and Judon believes that’s part of the airport’s mission as well.
“We’re happy to have an organization that — at its core — is all about service,” he said.
The purpose of AirCare is to “transport critically ill or injured adult, pediatric and neonatal patients patients in the Central Savannah River area within a 150-mile radius of the AU Health Medical Center,” according to the AU Health website.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to the Augusta Good News newsletter here.