LifeFlight of Maine has worked closely with MedComm, a communications center located in Bangor, since 1998. In addition to LifeFlight, MedComm also services three ground ambulance programs, dispatching nearly 50,000 calls per year. Medcomm arranges critical care transports with all Maine hospitals and also works closely with DHARTCOMM from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in Lebanon, NH and Boston MedFlight Communications from Bedford, MA to provide transport to and from hospitals in New Hampshire, Vermont and Boston.
Medcomm’s Communications Specialists (ACS) work with a variety of other communications centers including EMS, police, fire, warden and forestry services to coordinate both interfacility and scene calls. The ACS helps to coordinate landing zones, provide transport to and from landing zones, locate temporary landing zones in rural areas for logging, ATV, snowmobile or hiking accidents, and orchestrate the many services required to help critically injured patients in their time of need.
Inter-hospital requests: MedComm receives requests from hospitals and outlying medical treatment centers and alerts the appropriate aircraft crew. At the same time, the ACS conferences the referring physician with a physician Mission Approval and Consultation Officer (MACO) to determine the medical necessity of flying the patient. The healthcare providers discuss the patient’s condition and decide if the patient should be transported via air or ground. By this time, the pilot has given his weather decision and has determined if the flight can be accomplished safely. Once the pilot has accepted the flight request and the MACO has approved medical necessity, the flight is launched. Using this parallel process assures rapid launch while maintaining tight oversight of medical necessity.
Scene Requests: Due to Maine’s spread out population and many square miles of rural area, time is of the essence for critical patients. LifeFlight of Maine responds to all scene calls it receives, safety and weather permitting. The Maine EMS Medical Direction and Practice Board has established a protocol in which trained EMS responders can request a LifeFlight helicopter direct to the scene or to intercept the patient at a pre-designated landing zone.
For scene requests that are greater than 25 miles from a base, the aircraft can also be launched at the request of regional or state police 911 dispatchers or fire/rescue first responders. The aircraft heads toward the emergency scene while EMS providers at the scene assess the patient. If it is determined that air transport is not necessary, the aircraft returns to the base. LifeFlight’s patient-centered policy is, closer is better – we can always turn around.