HCA Houston Healthcare unveils air ambulance at grand opening event

Celebrating the grand opening of the HCA Houston Healthcare AirLife base in Liberty on Feb. 23 were Brian Gallier - director of business development and outreach, Randy Briones - VP of outreach, Rhonda Campbell - LDRMC CEO, Marty Delaney - VP of Medical Transport, Will Carter with U.S. Rep. Brian Babin’s office, Ericka Essington - clinical director of Medical Transport, Jared Lee - director of Business development for AirLife, and Connie Bryant - director of business development and outreach.

Over the last month, HCA Houston Healthcare has begun making flights to trauma centers in Houston and Kingwood from its new AirLife base at the corner of N. Travis and Magnolia streets in Liberty, adjacent to Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center.

“It’s been very busy. I think we are off to a very good start,” said Jared Lee, business development manager for HCA Houston Healthcare Air Life. “We’ve had transfers out of the hospital locally and have been a resource to EMS. The crews know when they show up here, they are going to work. They know they will be busy the whole time.”

The Liberty AirLife base, operating under the call sign of Air Life 12, is the third air ambulance base for HCA Houston Healthcare with the other two being in Pearland and Conroe. For Liberty County, this is the first air ambulance ever assigned specifically to serve the needs of the county.

The AirLife air ambulance in Liberty will be manned by (left to right) Erik Richenberger – Flight Nurse, Jared Oliver – Flight Paramedic, Mike Summers – flight nurse, Katie Nabors – flight nurse, Demi Wilkes – flight nurse, Jolene Long – flight paramedic, Keaton Davidson – flight nurse, and Anthony Henry – flight paramedic.

“HCA Houston Healthcare started the strategy that the resources need to be closer to the community, so that is why we established trauma centers in Clear Lake and Kingwood, both with comprehensive stroke centers. Even if you go by ground ambulance, it’s a lot shorter transport time to the trauma center in Kingwood than going to the medical center in downtown Houston,” Lee said. “It’s also easier on the families because it saves travel time to visit and no parking fees at our facilities.”

In medical emergencies, when time is of the essence, minutes count, and the ability to save time could mean the difference between life or death.

“We’ve had a couple of cases already where the time from when we were dispatched to the time when a trauma surgeon was at the patient’s bedside was less than 30 minutes,” Lee said. “We’ve also had instances where EMS will bring a patient directly to our helipad. Our crew will meet them and the helicopter will already be going so they can load up and go.”

Lee added, “It’s exciting to be a part of the HCA Houston Healthcare growth and this is one more part of it.”

At a grand opening event on Feb. 23 – hosted by HCA Houston Healthcare and Liberty-Dayton Regional Medical Center – hospital employees, local EMS, firefighters and first responders got an up-close look at the new air ambulance and met some of the flight crew personnel who will be responding to emergency calls in the area. Among the guests was Paul Henry, representing Liberty County Hospital District No. 1.

Henry said when the hospital and hospital district were first approached about the prospect of putting in the air base, everyone involved was in accord.

“We opened our arms to them and them to us. Our staff has gotten to know them and they’ve gotten to know us,” he said. “We are working together. Our emergency room in Liberty is where a lot of people in the county come for medical help. Now, instead of sending these patients who need more care to hospitals by ground ambulance, we can fly them there.”

Henry said he’s excited about the air ambulance but hopes to never use it.

“I like having them here but I don’t want to take a ride,” he said, jokingly.

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