The LifeNet of the Heartland helicopter at Rosecrans Memorial Airport has been upgraded in an effort to provide improved emergency medical transportation for critically injured or ill people in Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas.

“The advantage to this aircraft over what we had before: It is faster ... we can travel farther distance with it to pick up patients and return them to the hospital,” said Pat Shea, pilot with LifeNet.

The new Bell 407GX aircraft was unveiled in mid-November and has been used eight times since then. It serves a 150-mile radius from St. Joseph, including Omaha, Joplin and many rural areas.

“It will easily do about 330 miles on one tank of gas,” Mr. Shea said. “On almost all of our flights, we can pick a patient up, get them to the hospital and get back to base without refueling.”

The new helicopter is capable of speeds up to 160 mph. Patients can be transferred to area hospitals, including Mosaic Life Care, The University of Kansas Hospital and Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City for further care.

“A lot of the outlying and smaller hospitals we get a lot of our patients from just don’t have the facilities it takes to treat seriously injured patients, or strokes, or serious heart attacks,” Mr. Shea said. “The quicker we can get them there, the better chance they have to survive.”

Two medical personnel, including nurses and medics, go with the patient and pilot on each flight. The inside of the helicopter is equipped like an emergency room to provide any necessary in-flight care. They average 18 to 25 flights per month and are available 24-hours a day.

LifeNet of the Heartland has provided critical care medical flights at the Rosecrans Memorial Airport since 1998. Other LifeNet locations include Norfolk, Omaha and Fremont, Neb.

“It’s a job that gives you some satisfaction,” Mr. Shea said. “You are helping people.”

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Jena Sauber can be reached

at jena.sauber@newspressnow.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPSauber.

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