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CHATTANOOGA TN -- Erlanger Health System officials announced today that LIFE FORCE plans to add a sixth helicopter to its fleet of air ambulances in August. The new LIFE FORCE air ambulance, operated by Med-Trans Corporation, will be based in Andrews, North Carolina at the Western Carolina Regional Airport outside of Murphy, North Carolina. Erlanger Health System also announced that they have signed a letter of intent with Murphy Medical Center. 

"We are extremely pleased that LIFE FORCE is now expanding 'critical care in the air' services even further into the western North Carolina region," said Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE, President and CEO of the Erlanger Health System. "Placement of this helicopter is the result of several years of solid relationship building with surrounding hospitals and the support of state and local elected officials and enables thousands of residents to quicker access to regional facilities like Erlanger Health System when they need it most."

The additional aircraft is expected to begin accepting patient flights on August 15, 2017 and the letter of intent is in response to an advanced relationship that is being discussed between Erlanger Health System and Murphy Medical Center. The due diligence process required by the letter of intent should take both organizations approximately 90 days to complete with the goal of reaching a definitive agreement on the future relationship by September-October timeframe. 

"Erlanger and Murphy have signed an exclusive Letter of Intent to explore how our organizations can partner closer together to enhance and grow the existing medical care already being offered by Murphy Medical Center" said Robert M. Brooks, Executive VP & COO for Erlanger Health System. "The Letter of Intent is the first step in the process of exploring what the best structure could be for both Murphy Medical Center and Erlanger Health System." 

The addition of the new LIFE FORCE helicopter brings the LIFE FORCE fleet to six total helicopters - four dual engine aircraft equipped with Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and two single-engine aircraft that use visual flight rules, or VFR. In mountainous regions, aircraft not equipped with IFR can frequently get fogged in at their bases and are unable to answer patient transport requests. With an IFR aircraft now in that region, patients will have quicker access to higher level of care with increased safety, during periods where outside visual references are obscured.“Med-Trans Corporation is pleased to be able to support the Erlanger Health System to provide this critical service to the community” said Med-Trans president Rob Hamilton.   

Erlanger's LIFE FORCE provides the clinical team for medical operations and Med Trans Corporation provides pilots and mechanics for the aeromedical service, along with the aircraft. Med Trans equips the LIFE FORCE fleet with Airbus H135 helicopters and Bell 407 helicopters. The H135 model will be stationed at the Andrews base. 

"Since 1988, LIFE FORCE has been bringing the hospital to the patient and this is something that communities have come to rely on," said Robbie Tester, VP of Operations of Erlanger Health System. "We are pleased to be able to expand that service further into the Western Carolina region to continue serving the residents, hospitals, local EMS agencies. The IFR components certainly increase safety and efficiency for the crews as well as those living or visiting in that region. It provides area residents easier access to world class facilities like Erlanger Health System when they need it most," he said.

LIFE FORCE is accredited by the commission for accreditation of medical transport systems and is nationally ranked as one of the highest performing air medical services in the country. As the only air ambulance program region that carries ultrasound, blood and plasma products and is credentialed by physicians at Erlanger to perform emergency surgical airway procedures while in-flight, LIFE FORCE also provides on-the-scene and in-flight critical care treatment such as trauma service, heart and stroke intervention, cutting edge pediatric care and high risk labor services to the patients in the aircraft. 

About LIFE FORCE Air Medical
In addition to the Andrews location, LIFE FORCE has five other bases of operation throughout the region to serve residents within a 150-mile radius of Chattanooga. With headquarters at Erlanger's downtown location at 975 East Third Street in Chattanooga, LIFE FORCE also provides emergency helicopter transport from bases in Cleveland, Sparta, Winchester, Tn. and Calhoun and Blue Ridge, Ga. LIFE FORCE transported more than 2,500 patients in 2016. Learn more about LIFE FORCE at www.lifeforceairmed.com

About Erlanger Health System 
Erlanger Health System is an academic medical center affiliated with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine, and is a Level-One Trauma Center for adults. Children's Hospital at Erlanger is also the region's only pediatric hospital providing the highest level of trauma, critical and inpatient care, as well as the region's only Level IV neonatal intensive care unit. Erlanger is the only provider of tertiary care services spanning a 50,000 square-mile region encompassing southeast Tennessee, northwest Georgia, north Alabama and western North Carolina. The health system consists of five hospitals and six emergency departments, provides medical services for a fleet of five helicopters and offers centers of excellence in neurosciences, cancer care, cardiology, orthopedics, trauma, women and children's care and transplant services. With a history that dates back more than a century, Erlanger is the seventh largest public healthcare system in the United States and second largest employer in Chattanooga, Tenn. Each year, a half a million people are treated by the team of healthcare professionals who are part of Erlanger. Visit www.erlanger.org

About Med-Trans Corporation
Med-Trans is a leading national air medical provider focused on establishing partnerships with hospital systems, medical centers and EMS agencies with more than 90 bases across 23 states. Med-Trans offers customized air ambulance programs through alternative delivery/shared resource models, community based models and traditional hospital-based models. Its patient fleet numbers approximately 110 aircraft comprised predominantly of light single and twin-engine helicopters and twin-engine fixed-wing aircraft. For more information, visit www.med-trans.net.

Erlanger Health System’s air medical program, LIFE FORCE, held a ceremony to honor local EMS heroes who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in the inaugural Call of the Year awards during national EMS Week. LIFE FORCE flight crew members and awards committee selected outstanding calls in the categories of Medical, Pediatric and Trauma. 

Medical Call of the Year was awarded to Scott Garrison and Myron Schroepfer of Hamilton County EMS and Larry Robbins of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. The patient suffered a heart attack while hunting alone in the woods. He was several miles away from help and traveled as far as he could. When he spoke with dispatch he was asked to fire his gun in order to help rescuers locate him. This gave a general direction, but he was not located until the responders heard him whistling in response to their calls as he was too weak to respond otherwise. The first responders’ perseverance to find his location and provide medical care before transport helped to keep the patient alive. 

LIFE FORCE 2 crew members’ nomination for Pediatric Call of the Year recognized Jamie Hillis Parsley and Greta Stone of Dekalb County EMS and the St. Thomas Dekalb Emergency Room for their quick response and treatment of a 2-year-old child with inhalation burns from a house fire. This is a difficult diagnosis as the evidence of injury is not an immediate wound one can see with the naked eye. These EMS workers and Emergency Department personnel did not cease until the patient was stabilized. 

Trauma Call of the Year went to Tim Nelson and Whitney Howard of AMR McMinn County and Paul Johnson, Brad Johnston, Brian Greenlaw, John Amos and Will Davis of the McMinn county Sheriff’s Office. These first responders applied lifesaving tourniquets to a patient injured in a motor vehicle accident. . The patient suffered multiple broken bones, a severe head injury and near amputation of both legs. Without this team’s forethought and instinct to apply tourniquets, the patient would not have survived. 

Erlanger’s Dr. Lisa Smith recognized the first responders who worked the Woodmore bus crash in November of 2016. Hamilton County EMS, Puckett EMS, Angel EMS, Chattanooga Police Department, Chattanooga Fire Department, CHI Memorial Hospital Ambulance Service, Southeast Ambulance Service and Bradley County EMS were are given a token of appreciate with the deepest gratitude and honor for their service in a tragic time for the area. Working together, these departments were able to save many lives that day and honor those lost. 

The Erlanger Regional Operations Center (EROC) was dedicated in memory of the late Dr. James Creel with his family present to witness the honor. Dr. Creel will always be remembered as a pioneering physician and visionary leader in the Emergency Medicine community. He impacted thousands of lives as a leader, teacher and medical professional. Dr. Creel was ABEM certified for more than 30 years and certified in Undersea and Hyperbaric medicine. He was instrumental in designing and developing both an Emergency Medicine Residency and EMS Fellowship training and was the Medical Director of Pre Hospital and Disaster Medicine, EROC and Tennessee’s Region 3 Regional Medical Control Center at Erlanger. He held many leadership positions at Erlanger and within the community. From 2010 to 2012, he served as Medical Director of Puckett EMS and has served as Medical Director of Hamilton County EMS for the past 28 years. He laid the foundation for our current EMS system through vigilant training and support for our local EMS personnel. 

EMS Week, May 21-27, honors the first responders, EMS workers and Emergency Medicine personnel in the nation. These men and women are responsible for delivering top-notch care to patients in their time of need. Erlanger is fortunate to work with these professionals, both on their team and in partnerships around the region. This year's theme is "EMS Strong: Always in Service."

Representatives from Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital attended both Bledsoe and Sequatchie County High Schools on May 12th and donated Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to each of the schools. 

Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time. Minutes can literally make a difference between life and death. The sooner a heart rhythm is restored the better the outcome for the patient. AEDs are a safe and easy to use system that can restore heart rhythm during a sudden cardiac arrest. Both the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association advocate for AEDs to be readily available in public areas including schools. 

“When the athletic staff at Bledsoe County High School approached our LIFE FORCE team about the possibility of having an AED at the field house, we knew this was a very important request we could not pass up,” said Stephanie Boynton, CEO of Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital. “We are pleased to provide this much need equipment to both high schools. We hope that if it will ever be needed one day it will save a life in time for emergency personal to assist and transfer the patient to our emergency department.” 

Both AEDs are portable and can be moved to any location for further medical assistance. It is also possible for the athletic teams to take the AEDs with them whenever they travel for their sporting events.