Air ambulance base moves north
By Amanda Mims

A few months ago, Life Net air ambulance base moved from its southern Sumter County location in Bushnell to a new facility in Wildwood.

On Monday, March 7, Life Net held a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new office building, at 6450 County Road 139, in Wildwood, and used the opportunity not only to let the community know they're here but also to show off their newest piece of equipment, an EC-130 helicopter.

The new aircraft is lighter than the current one and roomier. There is a one-person stretcher inside which slides easily for quick evacuation and enough room for a four-member crew.

Besides serving Sumter County, Wildwood's Life Net base also covers Lake and parts of Marion County and assists in Citrus and Pasco, which makes base location important.

Dr. William Sheen, aviation base manager, said the decision to move operations to Wildwood was primarily made because of the large concentration of people in the north end of the county.

He said the response time to the north end wasn't what they wanted it to be and "there wasn't as great a need in the south end."

He said the response time to The Villages, as well as to Lake Panasoffkee, is about three minutes now and their air ambulance can get anywhere in the county within ten minutes.

Life Net administrators expressed their happiness with the move, as a crowd of about 45 EMS personnel, police and others listened quietly.

"My heart feels good today to see this come to completion," said Life Net Regional Director Ken Grimes. "Our dream is that the helicopters in the communities are where the patients are," he said, adding that it's come a long way since air ambulances were stationed at hospitals.

Wildwood Mayor Ed Wolf also had a few words to say about the new base.

"I just look forward to a long relationship with Life Net," Wolf said. "I couldn't think of a better place than Wildwood (for the air ambulance base)."

The base has four pilots, who work in 12-hour shifts, and 14 medical employees. A Life Net crew consists of a pilot, a paramedic, and a flight nurse.

Life Net provides service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.