Nightingale answers a need

Published 9:44 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Considering that Suffolk is blessed with a fine local hospital, two advanced emergency medical centers, and a growing community of medical specialists and professionals working to provide advanced health services outside of traditional hospital settings, there are fewer reasons each year for folks to leave the city to receive their medical care.

Those reasons will continue to diminish as plans move ahead for a new cancer center in North Suffolk, to be operated by Bon Secours Health System, and as the city’s continuing growth makes it cost effective to build larger facilities offering a widening array of services to an ever-broader clientele.

But there are still some medical services that are unavailable in Suffolk — and there may always be. Advanced cardiac care, for instance, is still best provided in Norfolk, along with advanced emergency care for trauma patients. For people in those situations, it’s good to know that the help they need is just a helicopter ride away.

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Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance, which is owned by Sentara Healthcare, flew 102 trips to Suffolk last year, about half of those to car accidents and other trauma scenes and the other half to provide aid to Sentara Obici Hospital for patients whose status required medical care that was advanced beyond that available here in Suffolk.

On Saturday, the helicopter flew three separate sorties to Suffolk, starting with picking up a man who had multiple gunshot wounds at 3:43 a.m., then picking up a man injured in a skydiving incident around 7:30 p.m. and then coming back soon afterward, when doctors at Obici Hospital concluded that a man who had been stabbed needed treatment they could not provide in Suffolk.

At first blush, it might seem that Suffolk would be better served by a hospital equipped to deal with any emergency. But there’s something to be said for being able to take a gunshot victim, for instance, to a facility like Sentara Norfolk General, where many gunshot wounds are treated each year, giving hospital staff plenty of experience, rather than keeping them at the hospital in a city that thankfully has far less experience with gunshot wounds. And Nightingale makes the choice even simpler, as it reduces the travel time to even Suffolk’s farthest reaches to only 15 minutes or so.

By name and by mission, Nightingale is a regional medical service. But the benefits it offers to the people of Suffolk are so great that the city’s residents really should consider it another part of the hometown medical community.