MYRTLE BEACH — McLeod Health –which includes Loris and Seacoast in Little River - has added a new medical helicopter service, giving Horry County patients another option in getting to the closest medical facility quickly, something other emergency medical helicopter providers say is a good thing for the area.
McLeod Air Reach, whose provider is Med-Trans Corporation, is at least the third emergency medical helicopter service along the Grand Strand, providing access to patients in the field, rapidly transporting them from one facility to another, and providing assistance on the scene of accidents or wrecks, according to McLeod Health officials. That includes patients who are critically ill or seriously injured.
The helicopter is stationed at the Marion County Airport, providing coverage within a 150-mile radius of its central location. The service has helped 31 patients, including those transported from an accident scene and hospital to another hospital for more specialized care, since June 30, said Dr. Mark Reynolds, medical director for McLeod trauma services. Thirty-eight percent of those transported from the scene of a wreck or accident were from Horry County and 50 percent of those transported to another hospital for the best treatment were from Horry.
Reynolds said there’s been a need for the service for quite a while.
“The Pee Dee Region is a vast area of mostly rural and under-served communities,” Reynolds said in an email. “These communities are widely-spaced and the provision of effective and efficient health care is difficult. Those who are unfortunate enough to suffer a heart attack, stroke or a severe injury in the field may wait a long time for the appropriate care to arrive. Many wait too long.
“There’s a need for assistance immediately, seconds count,” Reynolds continued via phone. “Everything we can do to provide immediate, effective coverage we should do.”
McLeod’s coverage is not expected to affect other area medical air services, with officials saying the priority is the primary care of the patients.
“Our goal is to get the patient to the closest, appropriate facility for treatment,” said Joan Carroza, spokeswoman for Grand Strand Regional Medical Center, which like McLeod, is a Level II trauma center, meaning it must have emergency surgeons on call at all times and they must be able to arrive at the hospital when the patient does.
Carolina Lifecare, which flew a medical helicopter for Grand Strand Regional, had been the only emergency medical helicopter in Horry County since 2005 and was acquired in August 2011 by LifeNet South Carolina, which has a base in Aynor.
LifeNet, whose aircraft in Aynor provides coverage typically within a two-hour air time, determines which hospital or medical center to take a patient based on national standards, the patient’s condition and the distance to burn units, cardiac facilities and trauma centers, said Junius Frederick, business manager for LifeNet South Carolina.
Now the area has double coverage, which is a “good thing,” Frederick said about McLeod’s air service.
“It’s pretty populated at that end of the state at certain times of the year,” he said.
In Georgetown County, the Waccamaw Community Hospital and Georgetown Memorial Hospital work with a variety of people to get helicopter transports as needed for their patients, said Ronda Wilson, spokeswoman for Georgetown Memorial Hospital.
“It’s not exclusive to one organization,” she said. “We work with whoever it is to get a patient appropriately transported.”
Reynolds said it is “the welfare of the patient that counts, which is what the [medical] team has in mind when they make that determination of where the best facility is.”
Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404.