The new PANDA-1 flight will allow Children’s Hospital of Michigan to transport children in need of specialized medical treatment to its hospital in Detroit from facilities all over Michigan.

The new PANDA-1 flight will allow Children’s Hospital of Michigan to transport children in need of specialized medical treatment to its hospital in Detroit from facilities all over Michigan.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Troy unveils new helicopter transport

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published November 12, 2021

 Air Methods pilot Andrew Peck stands next to the PANDA-1 helicopter, which he will be flying in the service of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Air Methods pilot Andrew Peck stands next to the PANDA-1 helicopter, which he will be flying in the service of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

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TROY — Children’s Hospital of Michigan unveiled a new resource Oct. 26 at its hospital in Troy: its new PANDA-1 transport helicopter.

An acronym for “Pediatric and Neonatal Dedicated Ambulance,” PANDA-1 will be able to transport little patients from hospitals all over Michigan to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan facilities in Detroit.

“What this means is that we can respond much, much quicker to community hospitals that have pediatric patients who are in need,” said Cathy Donovan, the president and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Michigan. “This helicopter will be based out of Bishop Airport in Flint, which means we will have very quick access, particularly to the north.”

The new program is a collaboration with Air Methods air services.

“This is a lease arrangement with Air Method,” Donovan said. “Air Method supplies the helicopter and pilot, and we supply everything else.”

Robert Schultz, one of the staff nurses who will serve on the flights, said this will provide the hospital with new opportunities to help Michigan residents.

“We’ve started a partnership with Air Methods. We are working with them to provide our flight service 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said. “We’re hoping our partnership will grow from this. We handle all of the patient care, and they get us where we need to go.”

Donovan said this is such a big step because speed, in regard to transport times, is critical whenever emergency medical care is needed — a fact that is even truer when those patients are children.

“Most likely, in the example of a bad car accident, the child would be taken from the scene to the nearest hospital to the accident,” she explained. “The community hospital will do what they can — and most community hospitals can handle it. For those patients who need extra care, what we call quaternary care, they would give us a call, the flight team would be dispatched, and they are up in the air in seven minutes or less and on their way to this community hospital. This is because, when it comes to children, the name of the game is speed. There’s a golden hour where you need to get to the patient and start treatment before permanent damage is done.”

The flights will be primarily used to transport patients to Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s facilities in Detroit for specialized treatment.

“Quaternary treatment, or what is sometimes called level four treatment, is when you need pediatric subspecialists,” Donovan said. “This would be physicians who have special training in neurosurgery or heart surgery or trauma surgery. Those specialists are located at our two hospitals in Detroit and Troy.”

Schultz said that having an air unit to aid in these transfers is critical, since, for a patient in that state of illness or injury, that time is incredibly dangerous for them, so reducing that travel time saves lives.

“We’re able to go farther, faster, and get them to the hospital quicker,” he said. “There’s a key metric when we’re thinking about transferring a patient from hospital A to hospital B, and that’s the out-of-hospital time and how long they are not in definitive hospital care. (The helicopter team) has all the capabilities of a mobile (Intensive Care Unit). Whatever the hospital needs us to do, we can do in transit. And by making that time out of the hospital shorter by transferring them by air, the better for the patient.”

Donovan said that this will bring the expert care of Children’s Hospital of Michigan to people all over the state.

“Basically, what the community is getting is critical care, pediatric and neonatal nurses and respiratory therapists to go to our outreach areas to take care of patients. We cover the entire state of Michigan. We pick up patients from 83 counties across the state. The Children’s Hospital of Michigan is among the top ranked children’s hospitals in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report. We offer incredibly specialized care, so we pull (patients) from the entire state and even sometimes the surrounding states,” she said. “The nurses and respiratory therapists who ride on these flights are highly trained in critical care medicine. They bring the ICU to the patient and are treating the patient the entire duration of the flight.”

Schultz added that he and the rest of the flight teams are ready to care for children who need the extra services PANDA-1 can provide.

“I’m so thankful to be able to take care of children,” he remarked. “I will treat any child in my care the way I would treat my own.”

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