SCRANTON - Commonwealth Health will begin operating a medical helicopter and the region’s first critical care ground transport service.

The transport service will provide advanced lifesaving treatment to patients en route to hospitals throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The ground transport, the first of its kind to serve an 11-county region, including Wayne, will include two vehicles – a Critical Care Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for neonates and a Critical Care Transport Unit that will provide advanced treatment to patients of all ages.

“Currently, the region does not have access to critical care ground transport which is essential in those instances when extreme weather conditions prohibit air transport," said Cor Catena, CEO of Commonwealth Health.

The NICU will go into service immediately and the Critical Care Transport Unit is scheduled to begin operating on Aug. 1. Both will be stationed at the Lackawanna Ambulance headquarters in Scranton.

Commonwealth One, the critical care helicopter, will begin operating Sept. 1.

“This is great news for the more than one million residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania who will now have more immediate access to the techniques and equipment that could mean the difference between life or death,” Catena said.

The announcement was made during National Emergency Medical Services Week, which honors the dedication of those who provide day-to-day lifesaving services.

Justin Davis, CEO of Moses Taylor Hospital and Lackawanna Ambulance, said the ground and air vehicles will be staffed by health care professionals trained to handle cardiac events, neonatal care, high risk obstetric patients, pediatric patients, stroke patients and ventilator-dependent patients.

In addition to a certified pre-hospital registered nurse who will staff the vehicles, eight paramedics from Lackawanna Ambulance recently completed training to earn their certification as critical care emergency medical transport providers.

“This is a proud moment for us and a testament to the dedication of the hard-working employees at Lackawanna Ambulance who worked with us to accomplish so many great things in the last nine months,” Davis said in a release. “We are proud to be able to bring this new service to the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Among the medical services that will be offered on both the ground units and the helicopter are advanced airway management, neonatal and pediatric care, advanced trauma and cardiac care, invasive monitoring of the brain, heart and lungs and the administration of blood and blood products.

Dr. Alan Miller, an emergency room physician and medical director at Regional Hospital of Scranton, said the availability of advanced lifesaving equipment and the presence of critical care staff could mean the difference between life and death in many instances.

Commonwealth Health’s helicopter provider is Englewood, Colo.-based Air Methods, the largest provider of air medical transport services for hospitals and one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services.

Air Methods was the first helicopter operator and air medical provider to reach the highest level of the FAA’s voluntary Safety Management System program. Air Methods will provide the aircraft, pilot and maintenance.