MONROE COUNTY, FL – In 2017, Monroe County’s Trauma Star program flew a record 923 patients to mainland hospitals to receive life-saving care not available on the island chain.
Trauma Star’s fleet of two twin-engine Sikorsky helicopters flew 197 patients for trauma, 29 for stroke, 27 for heart attacks and 3 first response flights to the Dry Tortugas. The remaining 667 transports were hospital-to-hospital transfers of critically ill patients that required specialty care not available at Keys hospitals.
In January 2017, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase of a second Sikorsky S76C helicopter. The program is jointly operated by Monroe County Fire Rescue and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
In June, 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.
Trauma Star flew 527 patients from the Key West base and 396 from the Marathon base. Others were flown from the field, including bridges.
The breakdown by area: 136 patients from the Upper Keys, 247 from the Middle Keys, 537 from the Lower Keys and 3 from the Dry Tortugas.
Trauma Star usually has two helicopters in service. Today, due to a minor mechanical issue, one Trauma Star helicopter went out of service. The other helicopter already was undergoing scheduled routine maintenance. The mechanical issue required a part to be sent from Miami. The repair was expected to be completed today and the helicopter put back in service.
Two ground critical care units were put in service with Trauma Star nurses to facilitate critical transports during this brief down time. One unit was place at each Trauma Star base.
For County residents, there are no out-of-pocket costs for using Trauma Star. 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.
Since the program began in 2001, Trauma Star has transported more than 3,500 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 125 heart attack patients directly from the field.
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 180 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. It now is in the final stages of implementing new ultrasound transmission capabilities for trauma patients via Telemedicine to surgeons at Ryder Trauma Center.