LifeStar wants to land in Effingham County — permanently.
David Herrin, chief of rural and air operations for Memorial Health University Medical Center, approached the commissioners about finding a place for the emergency medical helicopter that will put it more in the middle of its service area. LifeStar serves a 150-mile radius throughout coastal Georgia and southeastern South Carolina.
But LifeStar currently is based at Savannah International Airport, putting it at the edge of its coverage area.
“We’re looking to move to a centrally-located area of the people we serve,” Herrin said.
Herrin said Commissioner Jeff Utley found out about LifeStar’s decision to move.
“Effingham is centrally located to the area we serve,” Herrin said. “It gets us to the patients much more quickly than from Savannah.”
Memorial Health University Medical Center has operated LifeStar since 1985. The emergency medical helicopter, known for landing on roads to whisk accident victims to Memorial’s trauma center, the only Level 1 center between Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.
LifeStar had been based at Memorial for 21 years, but the hospital needed the room to expand, Herrin said, forcing the helicopter and crew to find new quarters.
“They kept moving our crew quarters farther and farther from the aircraft,” Herrin said.
He said the hospital building a new home is remote.
“Their capital for the hospital right now is extremely tight,” Herrin said.
The helicopter, a BK 117, can carry two patients and has a pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic.
LifeStar averages 180 scene flights, missions where it lands at the scene to airlift patients to the hospital, a year. It averages about 400 interhospital flights, taking patients to a specialized care unit such as a cardiac, stroke or burn center, a year.
LifeStar would need a crew quarters, a helipad, fuel system and a maintenance shed at its new home.
“We need to move from the airport,” Herrin said. “Fuel from our vendor at the airport is quite expensive.”
He said portions of the fuel system could be taken to LifeStar’s new base.
“We would like to move as soon as we can,” Herrin said.
Another county farther west has offered to take in LifeStar, but Herrin said it would be too far west.
Utley said the county could ask the board of education for a single-wide or double-wide trailer it may no longer be using for crew quarters, and he added the prison has a crew that can put up a building at no cost.