SALT LAKE CITY - Saving lives is about to happen faster than in the past.
A partnership between Intermountain Life Flight and Intermountain Donor Services invested in a $7 million Cessna Citation/CJ4 jet.
It will collect donor organs for organ recipients in Utah. It can also transport people who need organ donations.
“Over the past couple of years we have received more and more requests to transport patients all across the United States to and from our Intermountain area and you can imagine in a turboprop Beechcraft that takes a long time,” said Pam Moore, Executive Director of Intermountain Life Flight. “This jet allows us to do that very quickly and very smoothly and makes it a much safer environment for patient transport.”
Moore said the new jet flies much faster than any of their air crafts in their current fleet. It goes 500 miles per hour, compared to 310 on the turboprop air crafts. It goes up to 45,000 feet compared to 35,000, which means it avoids more weather complications. It also can go 2,100 miles without a fuel stop, whereas the turboprop only could travel 1,200 miles.
“We can fly to the east coast, transport a patient to the east coast, and back to Salt Lake City with a single 12 to 14 hour duty-day-- something in our turboprop aircraft would have taken us two days to do,” said Kent Johnson, director of aviation operations for Intermountain Life Flight. “The plane is also more comfortable for patients, crews, family members.”
“Three years ago we had a problem,” said Tracy Schmidt, executive director of Intermountain Donor Services. “We were not able to get jets quickly enough to get where we needed to get to and opportunities were being lost to be able to get organs here. This allocations system (a system he described that is designed for organ transportation based on east coast regional distances) was for all kinds of people living back east. Thinking that the differences between where you need to go from one region o another was 100 to 200 miles but the impact on us out west was significant.”
Intermountain Donor Services was partnered with a private jet company but the problem there was that that was a business-model based plan. IDS needed to work with a medical-model plan.
“The jet services, the staff needs – it’s based on a medical-model – on a non-medical model you got to give eight to 12 hours for them to pull their teams together- on a medical-model things are ready to go in an hour,” explained Schmidt.
Intermountain Medical Director of Liver Transplant Programs Richard Gilroy said his job is hard and confusing to many people. He tried to explain, what many people might already understand, the more sick you are the higher you move up on the organ transplant list. He explained what doctors have to tell some of their organ transplant patients.
“I would like you to get sicker so that you can get better because it transplantation-- the way we allocate organs is to the sickest people,” said Gilroy. “And for a lot of people and in the time I talk with you today, someone will be removed from a waitlist for being too sick or dying on a waitlist within the United States. But someone is in need,” Gilroy said.
The jet started going into IDS service last November and has already successfully completed 81 organ transports.
Intermountain said nationally there are 118,000 people waiting for organ donations. There are 750 in Utah alone.
The new jet will be able to reach organ donations across the country faster, allowing more lives to be saved in the process.