WellmontOne Air Transport, an important partner for nearly 10 years in the region’s delivery of emergency care, has achieved a special designation that recognizes the service’s quality.
After nearly a year of thorough preparation by WellmontOne followed by a rigorous two-day site visit by evaluators, the flight program was recently granted full accreditation for the next three years. The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems examined multiple elements of WellmontOne’s operations, comprehensive safety practices and support structure before concluding the helicopter service merited this status.
“We admire the relentless commitment of the medical staff and pilots to deliver exceptional care to patients who might be experiencing a potentially life-threatening condition,” said Eric Deaton, Wellmont Health System’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “To produce quality results under these circumstances requires a high level of training, and members of the WellmontOne team have repeatedly demonstrated their expertise. This accreditation is well-earned and reinforces the confidence we have in this program.”
During the on-site visit, evaluators reviewed WellmontOne’s aviation and safety processes and quality assurance. They also checked how the helicopter service stocks its supplies and ensures it has the critical care equipment and medication needed to provide patient care. Another important point for evaluators was to learn how WellmontOne is using continuous quality improvement standards.
Anita Perry, Wellmont’s director of flight services, said evaluators considered the support the program receives from the health system’s top administrators as a major strength. Another key attribute for the helicopter service in evaluators’ eyes is the way personnel use internal research studies, based on continuous quality improvement data, to enhance care and educate staff members on new ways to treat patients.
“Earning accreditation is a significant achievement for WellmontOne because it demonstrates we are adhering to national benchmarks for transportation of critical care patients,” Perry said. “We have always followed high standards, and this formal designation represents our ongoing efforts to provide the best possible service to our region. Even though we have received accreditation, we will continue seeking ways to further strengthen our flight program.”
WellmontOne, which is based at Bristol Motor Speedway, has served Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia since 2008. It is a partnership between Wellmont, which supplies the paramedic, nurse and medical equipment aboard each flight, and PHI Air Medical, which provides the aircraft, the pilot and the maintenance staff. The WellmontOne staff consists of about 20 people.
Three times, WellmontOne has received the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services for Children’s Star of Life award, which recognizes extraordinary care provided to children and adults. It has shared the award with Sullivan County Emergency Medical Services, the Sullivan County Emergency Management Agency and Hawkins County EMS.
In addition, WellmontOne is an important cog in the region’s Level One Heart Attack Network, which enables first responders in the field to perform electrocardiograms on patients who might be suffering a heart attack and transmit the results to an emergency department. This process has helped emergency department physicians and cardiac catheterization staff at Wellmont hospitals to mobilize quickly and reduce the time to restore blood flow in a blocked artery.
WellmontOne leaders have also represented the profession at the state and local level. Perry served as chairwoman of the Virginia Medevac Committee and was a member of the Governor’s Advisory Board for EMS in Virginia. She remains a board member of the Southwest Virginia EMS Council.
Ken Turner Sr., M.D., who serves as WellmontOne’s medical director and as an emergency department physician at Bristol Regional Medical Center, and Jessica Antonino, chief flight nurse, serve on regional committees through the Southwest Virginia EMS Council.
“It is a pleasure to collaborate with everyone associated with WellmontOne to provide high-quality care to patients flown to a hospital,” Dr. Turner said. “Seconds count during these flights, and I have full confidence in all members of the crew when they are asked to provide vital care during a transport. Their stellar work enables caregivers at the hospital to be in an even better position to advance the healing process when the patient arrives.”
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