COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Collier County's only medical helicopter is out of service for the next month for maintenance. That means trauma patients have to rely on Lee County's helicopter to pick up the slack. Wink News found out this year is different than others now that a private company has taken over Lee County's medical helicopter service.
Collier County's medical helicopter transports about 250 trauma patients each year to Lee Memorial Hospital. Its the area's only trauma center between Tampa and Miami. The amount of trauma transports drops off significantly in the summer. Collier County's EMS Chief, Walter Kopka says its the perfect time to take the helicopter out of service for routine maintenance.
"We want to make sure we are a safe operation," said Chief Kopka.
The annual inspection is required by the manufacturer and the FAA. Wink Nenk news got an exclusive look as the maintenance team worked on the $3 million helicopter. They're taking it taking it apart to check everything from the electrical system to the oxygen supply. Lee County will provide mutual aid and transport Collier County's patients while the helicopter is down. Wink News found out, the private company that took over Lee County's medical helicopter also runs non-emergency patient transports. So what happens if that chopper is busy while collier's chopper is down?
"We haven't experienced any issues with delays or not being assisted when needed," said Chief Kopka. "We coordinate with them best we can .. let them know when we are out of service and how long we'll be out of service so they can prepare for those calls if need be."
NCH Downtown and NCH North are both trauma receiving facilities that could stabilize a patient before they're transported by ambulance to Lee Memorial Hospital. Collier County's medical helicopter should be up and running by mid-July.