Air Base returning to EIRMC – Advantage for NICU Patients

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) will have a helicopter base returned they announced in November 2019. Since 1990 a helicopter has been based at EIRMC, but in 2015 the base was relocated to Driggs, ID to be closer to injured patrons coming from the Teton Mountains. It was decided that the location in Driggs, ID did not have the amount of volume to keep supporting the base. EIRMC wanted, as well as, needed a base and contacted Air Idaho Rescue – where they decided that moving the base back to EIRMC was a smart decision.

The biggest group to benefit from the move is newborns. When mothers in outlying rural hospitals give birth, and their baby needs extra assistance, being able to get to EIRMC is critical. EIRMC is a level III neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), meaning they can treat infants born from 22 weeks up. If the baby is premature getting to a neonatologist and NICU is crucial. A neonatologist is a doctor who studies the developments and disorders of newborn children. With all of this, having a travelling NICU team adds to the success of transporting patients safely to EIRMC.

Neonatal cases have three members of the flight crew – a pilot from Air Idaho Rescue, a nurse, and a respiratory therapist. EIRMC has a team that consists of 10 nurses, and 5 respiratory therapists that will work in shifts and are available whenever an outlying call comes in. This helps when an outlying hospital calls and requests a transfer for a newborn. The team will try and wait until the baby is stabilized before flying and sometimes that can be quick, while other times it can take hours.

When travelling, newborns are kept in an isolette – which is a temperature controlled incubator. Once onboard, they are locked into place at the front of the helicopter. Since the baby is stabilized beforehand, minimal treatment is required during their flight. Although minimal treatment is required, if needed, both a NICU nurse and respiratory therapist are onboard to aid in any emergent situations. With limited space, it becomes more complicated with transporting multiples. If twins are both needing to be moved, they will go one at a time on two separate trips. This meaning one will stay at the outlying hospital, stabilized, while the other goes ahead to EIRMC. The flight crew will then return and transport the second baby to EIRMC.

Having a specialized transport team will increase the results in preterm babies, or babies needing specific care. This is important that a NICU team transports the babies, as they have the correct personnel required to treat newborns with an array of health complications. This will comfort outlying hospitals and parents that a helicopter base and specialized team can come quickly if needed.