Those were the words said by many at Monday’s groundbreaking of the Life Force medical helicopter hangar at the Cleveland Regional Jetport.
The groundbreaking was attended by many local dignitaries, as well as representatives of Erlanger Hospital, where Life Force is based in Chattanooga.
The Life Force hangar should be completed by January 2016, and will be in service 24 hours a day, seven days a week and year-round, officials said. It will be the sixth medical helicopter in the region, following the decision to house a similar medical chopper in Winchester. Other sites besides Chattanooga include Sparta, Calhoun, Ga., and Blue Ridge, Ga.
“A permanent base in Cleveland will allow us to provide faster aeromedical services to Erlanger’s main hospital in downtown Chattanooga for the citizens and visitors in Hamilton County and Bradley County, as well as Meigs, McMinn, and Rhea counties,” said Robbie Tester, Life Force administrator.
“This is a big day for Bradley County,” noted Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis. “Our ambulance service and Life Force have worked together for so long, and our hospitals work together so well,
that … well, having Life Force here so close will be a benefit for the citizens of the county.
“We have a great ground service, but there are many times a patient needs to go to Erlanger, and it can happen quicker this way,” he added.
Bradley County Emergency Medical Services Director Danny Lawson agreed.
“It’s going to mean a lot to this community, because there will be lives saved, lives restored and families held stable,” he said. “What we have strived to improve on has been improved on today.”
Life Force has been instrumental in transporting injured people to Erlanger. During fiscal year 2014-2015, 2,143 patients were transported by Life Force to Chattanooga.
Tester said that there have been discussions in the past about Life Force having a permanent presence in Bradley County, but it never came to fruition. With the development of the new Jetport, space for the Life Force hangar was readily available.
Cleveland Municipal Airport Authority Board Chairman Lou Patten said the Jetport is seeing substantial growth, and he smiled as he noted that with the addition of Life Force, “we are almost running out of space.”
“It just continues to show the excitement that we have here at the Jetport. We are delighted how things have grown and it’s just a testament to those involved. It’s kind of like [the movie] ‘Field of Dreams’ — ‘If you build it, they will come,’” said Patten.
Erlanger’s Life Force provides the critical care team for medical operations and Med Trans Corporation provides pilots and mechanics for the aeromedical service. Med Trans equips the Life Force fleet with Airbus EC-135 helicopters and Bell 407 helicopters.