WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Walton County first responders said they can’t wait any longer on Healthmark Regional Medical Center in DeFuniak Springs.

The hospital temporarily shut down for maintenance in March and never reopened.

That left the area without an emergency room.

They said if they’re going to have to transport patients longer distances, they want something that will do the job faster.

They’ve decided to buy a medivac helicopter.

Healthmark Regional Medical Center’s shutdown forces EMTs and paramedics to drastically change the way they do business.

They’ve been carrying patients to emergency rooms in neighboring counties.

They’ve added ambulances and instituted a community paramedics program to prioritize patient transportation.

“It’s been a bit of a challenge,” WCSO Emergency Services Chief Tracey Vause said. “We’ve watched ambulance go down and our transport times go up, simply because we’re transporting cases to facilities outside of the county and that has created a need to provide an extra layer of service.”

So Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, who oversees emergency medical services, has come up with a new solution to the issue, a medical helicopter.

The helicopter will help them treat the most seriously injured or ill patients, and get them to trauma or pediatric centers much quicker.

“Ground transport of super complex and time sensitive cases is not the best option,” Vause said. “And that’s the only option we have today, we need to have the ability to transport them by air to the appropriate facility. You can transport someone by ground because it’s an efficient way to get them to a facility, but it may not be the most appropriate facility.”

The sheriff’s office is partnering with Air Methods Corporation to bring in a Bell 407 helicopter to the area.

“We’re very excited about it and we feel just with this aircraft, it is going to bring that next level of care to the community here,” Air Methods Regional Sales Director Nick Proenza said.

Vause said the helicopter could save up to 45 minutes of transport time, providing services 24/7, 365 days a year.

They plan to base the helicopter at the DeFuniak Springs Airport.

The sheriff’s office expects to have the medical helicopter ready to go by April.