Tazewell County worried about LifeFlight response times - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Tazewell County worried about LifeFlight response times

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An accident in Tremont this week is raising concerns over emergency response times in Tazewell County.

Chief Deputy Jeff Lower says he's worried about how long it takes for LifeFlight helicopters to get to the scene. Depending on where the aircraft are based, it could take significantly longer to get to their destination. "Quite frankly, until this incident last week in Tremont, I didn't know that Life-Flight had relocated," Lower said.

Lower also wasn't terribly happy with having to wait for a LifeFlight, since the two closest helicopters were already responding to calls, resulting in a longer wait from a helicopter stationed much farther away. 

"You know, if its my family that's in need of help, I want someone there now," he said pointedly. "But I understand that they have a broader responsibility than Tazewell county."

Last August OSF St. Francis Medical started keeping a helicopter in Galesburg  during the day, and the rest of their fleet in Bloomington, Rockford, and Peru. 

Notably missing is Peoria - at least, during the day.

Shelli Dankoff, with OSF, cited that upwards of 40% of their annual responses come out of their western coverage area, such as Galesburg, and Kewanee. Dankoff went on to say people from outside the River City need to be brought in, quickly, and those who are closer shouldn't worry.

"We're transporting patients into Peoria. It's not a super great distance between here and Galesburg or here and Bloomington, but if you can start there and fly in, obviously that works," Dankoff said, citing the quick response of ground-based ambulances for closer calls. "We don't feel that people should be concerned that there is no dayside helicopter based in Peoria."

Dankoff explains it's the vital collaboration between the first responders on the ground and the LifeFlight crews which determine where the helicopters get dispatched to.It's a sentiment both  OSF and Tazewell County hope they can improve.

"Peoria has a lot more resources than we do," claimed Chief Deputy Lower. "Bloomington Normal has a lot more resources than we do. (Tazewell County is) kind of...stuck in the middle."

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