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Wellmont unveils air ambulance service at Takoma Regional Hospital

GREENEVILLE – The Wellmont Health System now carries its mission of providing the best in health care to the skies around the region, as the Tri-State’s leading healthcare provider unveiled the Wellmont One Air Transport service Tuesday at Takoma Regional Hospital.

Leaders from the health system, the hospital and the Greene County business community gathered to formally kick off the Wellmont One service, which is already responding to medical calls from its base at Takoma Regional. Wellmont also installed new crew’s quarters at Takoma and built a new helipad for Wellmont One.

A substitute helicopter is being flown temporarily while the official Wellmont One helicopter undergoes the final stages of being outfitted for medical use and is painted with a logo composed of the familiar Wellmont colors of blue and green. Wellmont will add a second helicopter to the Wellmont One fleet this year and base it in Sullivan County.

From its Greene County base, Wellmont One can respond to motor vehicle accidents and other emergency calls throughout East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and Southeast Kentucky, in situations in which the space of minutes can mean the difference between life and death. In addition to responding to trauma calls, the Wellmont air ambulance will quickly transfer patients from outlying hospitals to facilities such as Wellmont’s Level I and Level II trauma centers, Holston Valley Medical Center or Bristol Regional Medical Center, when they need the most sophisticated care.

“Every day in health care, there are instances where time saved means lives saved – and that’s why we considered it an essential part of our mission to add an air ambulance service,” said A. Lee Shillito, chairman of the Wellmont board of directors. “Wellmont One can reach those who live in even the farthest corners of our region in a matter of minutes, in places where drive time to the nearest trauma center might be an hour.”

From Takoma Regional, the initial Wellmont One helicopter will be particularly suited to respond rapidly to emergencies along the western corridor of Wellmont’s service area, which includes Greene, Hawkins and Hancock counties.

Wellmont One will be operated by a flight crew from EraMed of Coatesville, Pa., and all medical personnel will be Wellmont employees. Carlyle Walton, president of Takoma Regional, said the presence of Wellmont One further enhances the hospital’s standing as a community hospital that is equipped with cutting-edge healthcare services. The hospital joined Wellmont last year in a partnership between Wellmont and Florida-based Adventist Health System.

At Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting for Wellmont One, Walton and dozens of others gathered near the helipad to listen to an actual, recorded radio communication of one of Wellmont One’s earliest emergency transports.

“I can think of several dramatic things to say about what this means for Wellmont, Takoma Regional and the region’s health care, but there’s nothing more dramatic than hearing a Wellmont One call where a patient is being transported to receive rapid, life-saving treatment,” Walton said. “Providing health care is about making a difference – and Wellmont One will make a difference.

“This is a proud day for our hospital and our community, and all those in the Wellmont family.”

Wellmont One will work in conjunction with Med-Flight II, the emergency helicopter service operated by Virginia State Police and staffed by Wellmont health professionals. Wellmont One also serves as the exclusive medical air transport for Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Our mission as a healthcare system is to provide everyone in our region cost-effective, convenient access to medical care, and Wellmont One is a key component of that mission,” said Dr. Richard Salluzzo, president and chief executive officer of Wellmont. “We believe everyone should have access to the best in health care – and everyone should have access to it quickly when they need it.”