SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - This is a helicopter ride no one would want to take.
"(It’s) the price of a car, roughly $30,000," said David Ghilarducci, Santa Cruz County EMS medical director.
Santa Cruz County doesn’t have a trauma center, so patients with serious injuries are rushed to nearby facilities in the Bay Area and in Salinas.
"Anybody with a gunshot wound, anybody with a knife wound or anybody who has abnormal vital signs, those folks need to go directly to a trauma center," Ghilarducci said.
Helicopters are often called to expedite the process but there are challenges.
"Being a coastal county, we do have times when the fog is in and we can't utilize a helicopter and we need to ground transport the patient," said Dan Quinto, paramedic field supervisor at American Medical Response.
Ambulances may triple the time, but emergency responders said they can still get patients into treatment within an hour.
Every year, there are about 1,300 people countywide needing those services
"We have always been, in the past, kind of on the border line of reaching that threshold, the local hospitals here have been exploring that option off and on,” Quinto said “It would certainly be convenient."
But it comes at a cost no hospital has yet volunteered to shoulder.
"It's about the entire hospital being focused on what it takes to take trauma patients, so it's radiology, it's lab, it's the nursing, it's the emergency department, surgery, of course, neurosurgery, lots of investment,” Ghilarducci said.
Santa Cruz County does have a mass casualty incident plan, where it outlines how emergency responders and those from the areas nearby should respond.