Sumner County is one step closer to a partnership with Air Methods Corp. and Vanderbilt LifeFlight that would construct an aeromedical evacuation base on the emergency services campus on Airport Road in Gallatin.
A contract leasing the land is expected to be signed by Air Methods’ officials after the passing of hurricane Dorian, according to Sumner County Emergency Medical Services Director Greg Miller.
The matter was first presented at the Aug. 5 emergency services committee meeting and later that day at the general operations committee meeting. On both occasions the motion passed unanimously and it went on to the full commission on Aug. 19. There it passed by 22 votes with 2 abstention votes belonging to commissioners Moe Taylor and Jeremy Mansfield.
“I think it would be a perfect opportunity to make one little move that would enhance the quality of life for the citizens and the visitors of Sumner County,” Miller said to the commission.
The project would include a helipad and crew quarters constructed by Air Methods. According to a press release from Vanderbilt LifeFlight, the crew will consist of one mechanic, four pilots and 13 medical professionals.
The medical staff is provided by VUMC and Air Methods provides equipment, including helicopters and manages billing.
After what is typically a year-long waiting period, the company would choose to build or not build a hangar for the aircraft. All buildings are code compliant and are constructed to match existing structures. According to Miller, should the contract be terminated at any point, Sumner County would take ownership of the buildings.
Miller also noted that Air Methods will fund the project, but asks the county help pay for permits, utility easements and other building fees.
As of Monday, Sept. 2, an Air Methods representative was not available for comment.
Discussion of the potential Gallatin base came after it was announced in March that Vanderbilt would purchase Tennova-Healthcare Lebanon, now called Vanderbilt Wilson County. LifeFlight has been in partnership with the hospital since 2004 and was looking to relocate.
Vanderbilt LifeFlight Air Medical Transport Manager Keith Evans said in an email that it “makes sense to have a helicopter located in another community to provide a faster response to those citizens.”
“Sumner County has been a great partner with Vanderbilt for many years and with that strong relationship, together we will continue to provide excellent care to the local communities with faster responses,” he said.
The release stated that a six-minute flight is the longest amount of time it would take to reach Northern Sumner County from the base. It would take 10 minutes of flight time to reach a hospital in Nashville.
The Lebanon aircraft, previously located at the Lebanon Municipal Airport, was the closest to county first responders. The next closest aircrafts were in Murfreesboro and Clarksville. According to Miller a 30 to 45-minute wait is not uncommon. Depending on the injuries, he said that patients were either taken to Vanderbilt, Tri-Star Skyline Medical Center, Sumner Regional Medical Center or Tri-Star Hendersonville Medical Center.
After the contract is signed by both parties, Evans said that the next step is to evaluate the base’s exact location and begin construction.
The release states that officials hope to have the base operational by the end of 2019. The county EMS, EMA and the E911 Communications Center are also located on the property.