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Vidant EastCare celebrates 30 years of service to eastern North Carolina

April 08, 2015 by Amy Holcombe

“This is my dream job; it doesn’t get much better than this.” That was the unanimous response from several of the Vidant EastCare team members when asked about what they do every day. This month, the emergency medical transport service for Vidant Health, celebrates its 30th anniversary.

“Vidant EastCare is an advanced critical care transport service that is committed to providing the highest level of care for the patients we serve both on the road and in the sky,” said Scott Sampey, administrator for Vidant EastCare. “Living in a rural area, we are fortunate to have this service so all residents can have access to outstanding medical care.”

Vidant EastCare has served 29 counties across eastern North Carolina since 1985. In partnership with Metro Aviation, Vidant EastCare operates two American Eurocopter EC-145s and two American Eurocopter EC-135s, one of which is a reserve aircraft. These state-of-the-art helicopters serve as self-contained emergency treatment centers with advanced trauma and critical care life support equipment for up to two patients. Crew members include a registered nurse, paramedic and EMS helicopter pilot - all specially trained in advanced critical care life support and transport procedures.

Not only is the team passionate about what they do and understand the importance of the service they provide, but, they are quick to emphasize that safety is the number one value. “It’s my job to get the crew from point A to point B in the safest way possible,” said Juan Terrasa, program aviation manager and pilot for Vidant EastCare. It is the pilot’s call on whether or not to fly, but if once in the air, any member of the team is uncomfortable, the pilot will turnaround.

Each aircraft has a range of 150 miles from its regional base and can fly directly to the scene of an accident or disaster. Many times, the flight crew has limited details about the call they are responding to. “We mentally prepare for the call on the way to the scene, we play out all the scenarios,” said Chuck Strickland, a Vidant EastCare paramedic. “We assist the local EMS crews on the ground with whatever they need in order to give the best care to the patient, then it’s our responsibility to get the patient to the appropriate facility in the safest manner possible.” 

Vidant EastCare also transports patients by ground ambulances in which those same highly-trained paramedics and nurses care for patients while being driven by EMTs, rather than pilots. These ground bases, five in all, are strategically placed across the region to have better access the patients quickly. 

All of these services are coordinated and monitored by Vidant EastCare’s communication center. The staff in the communication center have a high level of expertise in ensuring that appropriate level of care and mode of transportation is selected for each call. 

Vidant EastCare is nationally recognized for safety, quality and service. It is the region's only transport system accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. The growth and demand for EastCare’s service over the last 30 years are impressive. During its first five weeks of operation in April 1985, EastCare used its only helicopter to provide 54 flights for medical services. In 2014, Vidant EastCare responded to 12,345 ground and air transport calls.
 
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