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Posted on: October 4, 2018


Photo of Trauma Star air ambulance at Marathon hangar during sunset

MARATHON, FL – During the 2018 Fiscal Year that ended Sept. 30, Monroe County’s Trauma Star air ambulance program flew a record 987 patients to mainland hospitals to receive life-saving care not available on the island chain. This is a significant increase from the 814 patients who were transported during the 2017 Fiscal Year.

 Trauma Star’s fleet of two twin-engine Sikorsky helicopters flew 227 patients for trauma, 33 for stroke, 27 for heart attacks and 3 first response flights to the Dry Tortugas. The remaining 700 transports were hospital-to-hospital transfers of critically ill patients that required specialty care not available at Keys hospitals.

There are no out-of-pocket costs for County residents who use the life-saving service. In the past, private air ambulances in the Keys have charged County residents tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for transport to mainland hospitals.

Trauma Star is operating in the black despite no out-of-pocket costs for County Residents. The program’s operational cost was $6.6 million for Fiscal Year 2018. With an aggressive in-house collection program, Trauma Star has collected $7.4 million in revenue with September collections to be added to that FY18 tally.

In 2017, Trauma Star became the only air ambulance service in Monroe County – with a second Trauma Star base opening in Key West at the Lower Keys Medical Center. The Trauma Star’s main headquarters is in Marathon. It is a joint effort of Monroe County Fire Rescue and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

During Fiscal Year 2018, Trauma Star flew 551 patients from the Key West base and 436 from the Marathon base. Others were flown from the field, including bridges.

The breakdown by area: 135 patients from the Upper Keys, 172 from the Middle Keys, 677 from the Lower Keys and 3 from the Dry Tortugas.

Since 2006, Trauma Star has transported more than 4,400 patients to critical care not available in the Keys. Over the past few years, the need for the service by residents and visitors has increased dramatically due to the increase in tourism and the increased amount of traffic on Keys’ roads.

Background about Trauma Star:

The helicopters are staffed by highly-trained critical-care nurses, firefighters/paramedics and pilots. Each helicopter can transport up to two critically injured or ill patients at a time.

Trauma Star has been in the forefront of new standards of quality care, with a direct affiliation with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Army Trauma Training Department (ATTD), located at the Ryder Trauma Center.

Trauma Star was the first air ambulance service to provide immediate access to the highest level of care to patients experiencing a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and has since flown more than 148 heart attack patients directly from the field. Trauma Star has also transported

Trauma Star was the first air ambulance service in the United States to transport patients exhibiting signs of a Neurological deficit (stroke) to a comprehensive stroke center for immediate interventions and has since flown more than 206 stroke patients directly from the field.

Trauma Star was the first air ambulance service in the United States to combine the use of Telemedicine in the field to perform neurological examinations by stroke physicians.

Trauma Star medical personnel also can do critical diagnostics in the helicopter, including ultrasound  fetal heart monitoring and blood analyzers.

A third Trauma Star helicopter is on its way from Sweden and is scheduled to become operational at the end of the year.


Photo by Monroe County Fire Rescue Capt. Andrea Thompson of one of Trauma Star’s helicopters outside the Marathon hangar.

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