Emergency air travel has meant the difference between life and death for many South Mississippians. Forrest General is fortunate to have two air ambulance helicopters available to transport critically-ill or -injured patients to and from the hospital for emergency care. With the expanded services offered by these two air ambulance services, patients and their families can rest assured that necessary trauma and emergency care is minutes away.
The Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District (SEMAAD) was formed to provide emergency air transportation to residents in participating counties. Currently, funding for operating the air ambulance is provided by Covington, Forrest, Greene, Jefferson Davis, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, Stone and Walthall counties.
The success of the district stems from the effective pursuit of a simple premise: getting critically-ill or injured patients from here to there in the shortest possible time.
More than 15,000 patients have been transported by the intrepid crews of Rescue 7, a helicopter ambulance operated by the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District (SEMAAD) since 1971. Rescue 7, funded by Covington, Forrest, Greene, Jefferson Davis, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, Stone and Walthall counties is recognized as America's longest continuously operating air ambulance service.
The Agusta A-119 Koala helicopter airship, outfitted with the latest emergency medical equipment, is the fifth rescue helicopter operated by the district since the multi-county alliance was formed. SEMAAD commands Rescue 7 from its medical control base at Forrest General. Medical personnel in Forrest General's Emergency Center are linked to the helicopter by radio communications.
Proud History of Rescue 7
Since the SEMAAD district was formed, Rescue 7 helicopters have logged countless hours of flying time and completed more than 15,000 missions. Throughout its history, helicopter service has proven its worth to the Hub City medical community.
The origins of Hattiesburg's medical helicopter service began in the late 1960s. Hattiesburg received its first helicopter in 1969 as part of a program known as CARESOM (Coordinated Accident Rescue Endeavor, State of Mississippi), implemented by the Department of Transportation. The test program provided Mississippi with three helicopters which were placed in Hattiesburg, Jackson and Greenwood.
The government discontinued the program after 5 months and the helicopters were removed from service. But officials in Hattiesburg were sold on the merits of the helicopter and began organizing a local air ambulance district.
Besides extracting accident victims from the scene and transporting sick patients from rural areas, the helicopter also is used to transport patients between hospitals.
In 2008, the Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District (SEMAAD), entered into agreement with Baptist LifeFlight, an air ambulance company based in Pensacola, Fla., allowing for expansion of availabiilty and the fastest possible ambulance service when patients need it most. This air ambulance service provides service to Covington, Forrest, Greene, Jeff Davis, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, Stone and Walthall Counties.
"This agreement gives the best possible situation for our citizens and patients," said John Nelson, M.D., president of the SEMAAD Board of Directors. "This enables us to have not only a primary helicopter, but a secondary helicopter that guarantees us very little or no helicopter down time for the SEMAAD District." Nelson adds that other than weather, there should never be any problem in being able to respond to requests for air service that are medically necessary.
Baptist LifeFlight is based in Pensacola, Fla., and was established by Baptist Hospital as the third hospital-based air ambulance service in the country. LifeFlight covers areas in the Florida panhandle, South and Central Alabama and South Mississippi.
Visit Baptist LifeFlight for more information.