By land or by air, NHRMC critical care units rank near the top

February 27, 2007
Whether by ground or air, high-quality critical care transport means securing patients’ safety while providing first-rate care from dedicated professionals with the best equipment available.

Recently, New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s critical care transport team known as VitaLink and AirLink joined New Hanover Regional EMS - the first model EMS program in the state - as recognized national leaders in their field.
In 2004, the Association of Air Medical Services, the leading professional and accrediting organization for air and ground critical care transport, awarded VitaLink a national Critical Care Ground Award of Excellence.

“We were extremely pleased to learn that throughout the entire United States we had the best ground transport program,” said Mark Galtelli, Director Assistant Chief of VitaLink.

Begun in 1991 to meet the region’s increased demand for patient transfer from one hospital to another, the VitaLink part of New Hanover Regional EMS has grown to include a fleet of seven critical care trucks and more than 50 employees.

Galtelli said the award, which was presented at the annual Air Medical Transport Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the result of teamwork and a well-defined mission.

“We strive to provide the best possible care in the critical care environment … whether it’s on the ground at 70 mph in the back of an ambulance …, or at 160 mph at 2,000 feet in the air,” he said. “Our crews are very versatile and very well-trained.”

Before monitoring units, syringe pumps and ventilators go into action, however, safety comes first, Galtelli said.

“Our first and primary goal is safety – safety for ourselves, safety for our crew, safety for the patient,” he said.

Coinciding with VitaLink’s recent award for critical care ground transport excellence, AirLink, the critical care air component, accepted a 2005 Air Medical Safety Award for accumulating more than 2,000 safe hours since beginning operations Aug. 31, 2001.

AirLink is Southeastern North Carolina’s first air ambulance service. In its first year of operation, the AirLink ambulance, a two-engine, EC135 helicopter, performed more than 500 patient transports in the tri-county area and beyond.

A “safe hour” is defined as one hour of flight time with a patient on board that’s accident or incident-free.

“The award is the recognition of a job well-done,” Galtelli said. Since the November 2005 award, AirLink has logged another 1,000 safe hours, he said.
“All of the successes of VitaLink and AirLink are due to the efforts of a very talented and dedicated staff,” he said.

Galtelli and his co-workers, both ground and air, said they’re haven’t stopped trying to get better just because they won awards.

“A lot of times when you receive an award it’s the culmination of a successful event, here it’s a marking of the first step of many more to come,” he said.