COOKEVILLE – Vanderbilt University’s LifeFlight has set an opening date for its new Cookeville helicopter base.
The base, in partnership with Cookeville Regional Medical Center, is LifeFlight’s seventh in Tennessee. It will start service Tuesday, Aug. 2.
Officials considered nearly a dozen sites before settling on 4570 S. Jefferson Ave. The new base will employ 11 medical flight crew members, four pilots and two mechanics. A new Airbus H130 T2 helicopter will cover a 120-mile response area from Cookeville, transporting patients who require advanced medical and surgical care from prehospital scenes and hospitals in the region back to CRMC. Patients needing care as the result of trauma will continue to be flown to Vanderbilt or another appropriate facility.
Tim Hurst, MSN, R.N., FNP-BC, CCRN, AEMT, a graduate of Tennessee Tech University, has been named Cookeville base manager and chief flight nurse.
Hurst has been a flight nurse with Vanderbilt LifeFlight since 1997. He holds a master’s of science in nursing from Tennessee Tech, and a bachelor of science in nursing from Eastern Kentucky University. He is a licensed family nurse practitioner.
Vanderbilt and CRMC officials first announced the partnership in April. The Cookeville hospital has had an affiliation agreement with Vanderbilt since 2012.
CRMC CEO Paul Korth told the UCBJ in a May interview that the base was an idea the parties had been “kicking around for the last two or three years.” From a patient care standpoint, it ranks as one of the more key improvements that have been made over the four-year relationship.
“One thing that’s pretty clear, this relationship is unique. The primary purpose is to bring people here, not to take them somewhere else,” said Dr. Sullivan Smith, CRMC emergency department medical director. “That’s a big deal. It’s a big investment. It shows a lot of trust on both sides.”
Vanderbilt LifeFlight provides hospital-based emergency air medical transport services throughout Tennessee and southern Kentucky, with remote helicopter bases in Lebanon, Tullahoma, Clarksville, Murfreesboro, Mt. Pleasant and Henry County. LifeFlight also operates an airplane base at Nashville International Airport and has five ground ambulances as well as an event medicine division.
The Airbus H130 provides for 360-degree access to the patient, flies at approximately 140 mph, and has a wide, unobstructed cabin with large hinged and sliding doors, which enables easy loading and unloading of a stretcher.
Officials did not disclose the exact total investment, but it’s expected to total several million dollars.