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Georgia State Patrol urges area funding for Camilla-based Life Flight operation

Proposed station would give Southwest Georgia trauma care coverage

Col. Mark McDonough with the Georgia State Patrol explains a regional Life Flight proposal to the Dougherty County Commission at its Monday work meeting at the downtown Government Center. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Col. Mark McDonough with the Georgia State Patrol explains a regional Life Flight proposal to the Dougherty County Commission at its Monday work meeting at the downtown Government Center. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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Southwest Georgia Regional Commission Executive Director Robert McDaniel talks about a joint Regional Commission/State Patrol Life Flight proposal at Monday’s Dougherty County Commission meeting. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Dougherty County commissioners are being asked to consider making what would be a relatively small financial commitment through the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission to bring Life Flight trauma care service to the region.

Col. Mark McDonough with the Georgia State Patrol told commissioners at their Monday work session that the state Department of Public Safety is ready to commit $10.7 million for the purchase/retrofitting of helicopters and other equipment needed to run a Life Flight station in the region. McDonough said the state would put up another $2.2 million in annual operating expenses.

“What we’re seeking from the Regional Commission in this joint project is a hangar constructed to DPS specifications that would be required to house the two helicopters and five Life Flight nurses for medical staffing,” McDonough said. “By partnering with the Regional Commission, we can implement this initiative that may be otherwise impossible to achieve independently.”

The DPS commissioner said a Life Flight station centrally located in Camilla would give Southwest Georgia critical trauma care coverage that currently does not exist in the region. Noting more than 600 trauma calls in the region during calendar year 2013, he said the proposed operation would help cover “a pretty blank area of the state” and save valuable time for trauma victims in the “golden hour” that could mean life or death.

“They call the first hour after a trauma incident the golden hour because statistics show the percentage of victims who survive goes way up if they’re given medical attention in the first hour after the incident,” McDonough said.

Dougherty Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said after the meeting the commission would study the presentation carefully.

“I guess a key question for us is where do we fit as far as financing the $400,000 or so it would take to supply the five flight nurses,” Sinyard said. “Are we (as one of 14 counties covered by the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission) at 10 percent (of the overall cost) or 5 percent? We need to look at the numbers, because the budget is still tough. But this definitely deserves a closer look. You can’t put a price on the lives that could be saved through this program.”

Regional Commission Executive Director Robert McDaniel said the city of Camilla is considering construction of the hangar, which is expected to cost around $800,000.

Also discussed during the board’s work session were purchases of a long boom excavator used by Public Works to clear ditches and canals and a Ford 150 4 x 4 for EMS, acceptance of $64,937 quotes to replace air conditioning units at the RiverFront Resource Center, and proposed resolutions commending the Association County Commissioners of Georgia on its 100th anniversary and setting qualifying fees for 2014 county elections.

The commission also discussed planned improvements OK’d by the state Department of Transportation at the intersection of Georgia Highway 520 at County Line Road. County Administrator Richard Crowdis said the improvements include installation of a traffic signal at that intersection.

“All of this is about safety,” Sinyard said. “We’ve had several (traffic) incidents out there, including a fatality.”

Crowdis said the county would be required to maintain the improved intersection.