MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. - Firefighters in Martin County worry people's lives are at risk. The county lost its trauma helicopter five months ago at the end of January.
Since then emergency crews have relied on help from other counties. But firefighters say the delay could be the difference between life and death.
When there's a call for help at station 21 in Martin County, firefighters act fast. They've seen it all.
”Head injuries, amputations, heavy bleeding,” says firefighter and paramedic Giancarlo Cheli.
They live by a rule called the golden hour.
“That means from the time the injury happens to from the time they’re in surgery should be within an hour,” says Cheli.
“The time ticks for them in a bad way,” says Chad Cianciulli with the Martin County Firefighters’ Association.
That's why Martin County relied on its trauma helicopter for years. But that helicopter known as Lifestar is now gone.
“It’s frustrating knowing that they need the helicopter and we don’t have one,” says Cheli.
The hangar is empty and the gates are locked. Martin County says the contract for the helicopter was terminated back in January by the company AirMethods. Since then the county has relied on help from St. Lucie County. St. Lucie's fire district says Martin County has used their helicopter 38 times since February.
“There have been no complaints, no indications of any negative impacts from what we've been hearing,” says Martin County spokesperson Gabriella Ferraro.
But firefighters disagree. The union sent a letter to the county asking commissioners to take action.
“The fact that we've gotten by doesn't mean we'll continue to get by,” says Bryan Richardson with the Martin County Firefighters’ Association.
St. Lucie County's helicopter isn't always available. That means first responders in Martin County have to drive patients to hospitals. Firefighters say that puts lives at risk.
“We know it can be done better and that concerns us so I mean emotionally that's upsetting,” says Cianciulli.
Martin County is negotiating with a company called MedTrans to provide another trauma helicopter. Ferraro says commissioners could see those plans next month.