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Life Link III to move full-time helicopter base to Willmar

Effective today, Life Link III is moving its regional helicopter base from Hutchinson to the Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR - Life Link III is moving its regional helicopter base from Hutchinson to the Willmar Municipal Airport, effective today.

The move will place the helicopter base closer to a greater population of patients served by Life Link III.

Health officials called it "a great move" for the region.

"Having the Life Link III base in Willmar means improved response times, and faster transport for patients requiring critical or trauma care," said Mike Schramm, chief executive of Rice Memorial Hospital.

Edward Eroe, president and chief executive of Life Link, said the new base will help save critical minutes when responding to calls throughout western Minnesota. "Moving the helicopter to Willmar will allow us to provide lifesaving care and transportation to patients in many locations faster than ever before," he said.

The helicopter also serves central Minnesota, including its old base at Hutchinson. The Bell 407 helicopter transports patients from any hospital in the area. It also airlifts patients directly from the scene of a traffic crash or other accident at the request of emergency medical services or fire or law enforcement personnel.

The helicopter and crews will be based full time in Willmar. All staff that previously worked in Hutchinson saw their jobs transitioned to Willmar.

Crews will be housed in a residential trailer at the airport. Some of the staff live locally but others commute from as far away as the Twin Cities to work a 12-hour shift three days a week. Until the housing set-up is complete, crews will use the main airport conference room and some office space as temporary living quarters.

Life Link III had been based in Hutchinson since 2005. In the summer of 2011, it began stationing a helicopter and crew at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar on a trial basis three days a week.

Life Link III is a nonprofit consortium providing air medical transport via helicopter and airplane. The service is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. Members of the consortium are Allina Health, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Essentia Health St. Mary's Medical Center, Fairview Health Services, Hennepin County Medical Center, Regions Hospital, Sacred Heart Hospital of Eau Claire, Wis., the St. Cloud Hospital CentraCare Health System and St. Luke's.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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