Prior to 1990, Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department helicopters were used for air transport of critically ill and injured patients to area hospitals. With Palm Beach County's population rapidly growing, it was evident that a formal countywide Trauma System was necessary. In November 1990, the Trauma Hawk Aero-Medical Transport Program was established. The mission of the Trauma Hawk Aero-Medical Program is to save lives and reduce injury mortality through rapid transport of patients to specialized health care facilities such as; trauma, burn, spinal cord and pediatric hospitals. Today, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, through a unique partnership with the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, staffs the medical personnel on the Health Care District’s two Trauma Hawk air ambulances in Palm Beach County. The Sikorsky S76-C+ Trauma Hawk air ambulances are owned and operated by the Health Care District which is an FAA-licensed air carrier. They are identically equipped helicopters that can carry two patients each and up to four medical attendants if needed.
Trauma Hawk Crew
Each helicopter is staffed with at least one commercial instrument-rated pilot, one registered nurse (RN) and one paramedic. The RN's and paramedics are Palm Beach County Fire Rescue employees. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue maintains the Advance Life Support Transport License issued by the State of Florida. The Trauma Hawk pilots, maintenance technicians and administrative staff are Health Care District (HCD) employees.
What is Trauma?
A trauma victim is someone who has sustained a life threatening traumatic injury such as blunt injuries due to auto accidents and falls, penetrating injuries involving gunshot or knives and burn injuries that require immediate medical treatment to survive. The speed with which trauma patients receive the proper treatment and transport to a trauma center in large part determines their outcome. The human body can compensate for internal bleeding for only about one hour without treatment; this is known throughout the medical industry as the patient's "Golden Hour".
What is a Trauma Center?
A Trauma Center is a specialized hospital for the care and treatment of people who are severely traumatically injured. The Trauma Center is responsible for staffing a 24-hour on-site surgery team that is always available to provide surgical intervention for trauma victims. The trauma team continually treats traumatically injured patients, which includes critical care and rehabilitation, until the patient is released from the trauma center.
Palm Beach County's Trauma System includes two Trauma Centers: St. Mary's Medical Center and Delray Medical Center. Each center is under contract with the Health Care District to provide a level of care consistent with applicable local ordinances and state rules and regulations as well as national guidelines established by the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American College of Surgeons. The Health Care District provides financial support for the Trauma Centers, Trauma Physicians and Specialists.
The two Trauma Centers are designated to service a specific geographic area of Palm Beach County. St. Mary's Medical Center provides coverage for traumatic injuries occurring in the northern part of Palm Beach County, north of Southern Boulevard. Delray Medical Center provides coverage for traumatic injuries occurring in the southern part of the Palm Beach County, south of Southern Boulevard.
The goal of the Trauma System is to assure that all severely injured victims in Palm Beach County receive definitive treatment by a specialized trauma surgeon at one of the Trauma Centers within the "Golden Hour".