Medical helicopter making practice runs at new SLU Hospital


ST. LOUIS – The ARCH Air Support team landed at the new St. Louis University Hospital for the first time Friday morning.

“We’re out here simulating some daily patient transport flights that we do daily across Missouri and Illinois,” said Paul Ross, ARCH Air Medical regional business executive.

The team coming from Granite City, Illinois touching down on a new helipad.

“Our helicopter will respond to the scene of a car accident or other sort of trauma or medical emergency and fly them to a level one trauma center,” said Chase Niewoehner, flight nurse for ARCH Air Medical. “St. Louis University (hospital) being our most common receiving facility.”

ARCH helicopters have been flying over the skies of the St. Louis region since 1979. Friday’s landing is a practice for the medic team, learning the lay of the land at the new state-of-the-art new SLU hospital.

“Practice. That is one thing EMS does well with our hospital partners is that we practice,” said Shirley Gastler, SSM EMS manager. “So, we want to make sure when we land or you drive up in the ambulance, we know exactly where to go with a sick patient or a trauma patient. SLU has opened this up and its state-of-the-art trauma. They’ve doubled their trauma bays. So, when we have the traumas coming in, we’ll know exactly where to go.”

SSM Health SLU Hospital patients and staff will make the move from the old hospital to this brand-new location August 30, with the grand opening on September 1.

“New ER is designed with trauma and emergency care in mind,” Niewoehner said. “As soon as you get off the helipad and enter the ER, the first room right there (is) the large resuscitation patients. The CT scanner is just down the hallway, which is important for us for patients we get who have suffered strokes or medical emergencies here for imaging and medical care. So, it’s really designed well and great for us at EMS.”

In 1979, SLU Hospital instituted the Medical Air Rescue Core (MARC) helicopter program. In 1987, SLU partnered with Barnes and St. John’s Mercy Medical Center and MARC became ARCH Air Medical.

Friday was a rare moment of reprieve for these medical professionals, getting to practice so that they’re ready and prepared.

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