Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center is moving its Soda Springs Air Idaho Rescue ambulance helicopter to a base right at the hospital.

EIRMC officials say this is largely to accommodate specially trained patient transport teams, namely the neonatal intensive care unit, or the NICU, transport team.

EIRMC is the only level three NICU in the area, providing the highest level of care in the region.

In the past, the helicopter based in Driggs was forced to come pick up the transport team at EIRMC, before heading to transport premature babies and their mothers to the EIRMC NICU.

This essentially doubled the flight time.

"Moving a helicopter here will help us improve those flight times and get our teams to the bedside where our patients need us as quick as possible,” says David Hoffenberg, the Chief Operating Officer at EIRMC.

“And we'll be able to cut our flight times for those types of patients in nearly half."

The NICU transport team is made up of a nurse practitioner, a flight nurse and a respiratory therapist.

They come equipped with a special isolate unit for the baby, which is fitted for the helicopter.

EIRMC officials say their key critical moment comes right after delivery. 

The team is trained to resuscitate babies as young as 22 weeks gestational age.

"When you're talking about minutes, how much that means to a baby, as they're struggling to breath, people out in the field who aren’t' familiar with those tiny little babies, it really can mean the difference between life or death,” says Iris Torvik, the administrative director for Women & Children Services at EIRMC.

“It could mean the difference between a long-term poor prognoses, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, other complications of pre-maturity."

EIRMC officials say moving the helicopter out of Soda Springs will not greatly affect future patients in that area.

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