There’s a new air ambulance provider servicing the San Juan Islands — Life Flight Network.
In July, Life Flight Network announced it was teaming up with WhidbeyHealth Medical Center to open a base on Whidbey Island. On Sept. 15, that base began servicing Island County and, “the broader Puget Sound region,” including the San Juan Islands.
“If there was an emergency in the community, they could definitely call us and we would respond,” Life Flight Regional Vice President Jacob Dalstra said.
The new location is home to a 24/7 air medical helicopter, pilot and medical crew, according to a July press release. The not-for-profit air ambulance provider opened a Port Angeles base in February. Life Flight Network is the largest nonprofit air medical services in the United States, a July release stated.
“Demand is growing and the relationship with the local EMS community is strong,” the July press release said of its Port Angeles operations.
With the addition of Life Flight’s second Puget Sound base, there are a total of four helicopter air ambulances covering the region — Airlift Northwest in Arlington and Bellingham; and Life Flight in Coupeville and Port Angeles. The new Coupeville base is fewer than five miles closer to Lopez and San Juan than Airlift Northwest’s Bellingham base. For Orcas, Airlift Northwest’s Bellingham base is a much closer option — nearly 15 miles — than Life Flight.
Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Williams said the island emergency services are still in the early stages of learning about Life Flight’s island coverage. He added that for now, OIFR will continue to use Airlift Northwest and Island Air Ambulance as primary providers, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy when needed, unless additional assistance is needed from Life Flight for whatever reason.
According to Dalstra, the organization has a reciprocal agreement with Airlift Northwest which ensures that if a patient has a membership with one provider and gets service from the other, they incur no out-of-pocket expense. Life Flight Network offers an annual membership for $65 and Airlift Northwest offers an annual membership for $79.
Airlift Northwest representative Susan Gregg told the Sounder, “AirCare members of Airlift Northwest, which has been serving the residents of the Islands with a higher level of healthcare for nearly 40 years, are covered if transported by one of our reciprocal partners.”
Those partners are Life Flight Network in Oregon, Idaho and Montana; Care Flight in Reno, Nevada; and Air St. Luke’s in Boise, Idaho.
Locally owned and operated Island Air Ambulance offers a fixed-wing (airplane) medical flight option. It, too, offers a membership for $39 to ensure no out-of-pocket costs for the patient.