UW News

July 9, 2009

Airlift Northwest adds extra summer services to San Juan Islands

By Clare Hagerty & Susan Gregg-Hanson
News & Community Relations

Airlift Northwest (ALNW) will again base one of it helicopters at the Friday Harbor airport this summer to expedite emergency services for residents and visitors in the San Juan Islands. The helicopter will be at the airport during the day on alternating weekends and during the San Juan County Fair.

“This move allows us to provide service more quickly during a busy time of year,” says Airlift Northwest Regional Manager Jeff Richey. “The summer months bring more visitors to the islands and the need for more emergency services. By basing a helicopter at Friday Harbor, we will be able to shorten response times not only to Friday Harbor, but to all the islands as well.”  ALNW has bases in Washington and Alaska.

“We experience increased need for air medical transportation during the busy summer season,” said San Juan Island EMS Chief Jim Cole. “We appreciate Airlift Northwest recognizing this need by stationing a crew at Friday Harbor for the third consecutive year. This is a very positive relationship that provides superior service for people on the islands who experience a critical medical or traumatic emergency.”

Airlift nurses and pilots will stay at the San Juan Island EMS (emergency medical services) crew quarters, which are just minutes from the Friday Harbor helipad. This local positioning of the crew and aircraft will significantly shorten the time required for the helicopter to reach a patient in the San Juan Islands. Cole explained that San Juan Island EMS, or the EMS teams on Orcas, Lopez and other islands, will continue to bring patients to an airport to meet the ALNW helicopter.

The helicopter will be in Friday Harbor July 17-19, July 31- Aug. 2, Aug. 12-16 for the San Juan County Fair, Aug. 28-30, and Sept. 4-7 for Labor Day weekend. It will arrive at 9:45 a.m. and depart for its Bellingham base at 6 p.m. each day.

As an additional service, ALNWoperates a membership program that is available to people on the islands. Under that program, called AirCare, when Airlift Northwest is requested by a medical facility or an emergency response team to fly a critically ill or injured patient to appropriate medical care, the portion of the Airlift Northwest bill that isn’t covered by insurance or Medicare is paid through the membership. A membership in AirCare is $79 a year and covers all members of a household.

Airlift Northwest, a nonprofit service founded in 1982, provides air medical services for critically ill and injured infants, children and adults throughout the Pacific Northwest. Airlift Northwest is part of the UW Medicine health-care system, which also includes Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, UW Neighborhood Clinics and the UW School of Medicine.

For more information about Airlift Northwest or AirCare, visit www.airliftnw.org or call 888-835-1599.