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Life Flight teams up with WhidbeyHealth
A new base at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center will serve not only Coupeville and nearby communities, but also the wider Puget Sound region. Life Flight Network is working with WhidbeyHealth EMS to make it happen.
Life Flight Network has announced a partnership with WhidbeyHealth to expand the region's air ambulance service.

Life Flight Network, a not-for-profit air medical transport service operating in the northwest United States, is partnering with WhidbeyHealth Medical Center to open a new base in Island County, Washington. The base will be operational in late summer 2019. A 24/7 air medical helicopter, pilot and medical crew will be based on location at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center, serving not only Coupeville and nearby communities, but also the broader Puget Sound region including the San Juan Islands.

“We're proud to partner with the exceptional providers at WhidbeyHealth and to work alongside local emergency responders in serving the health care needs of Island County residents,” says Life Flight Network CEO Michael Griffiths. “At the core of our expansion in Washington is our mission to provide ICU-level transportation in a safe, compassionate, efficient and expeditious manner. With 41 years serving the state of Washington, we're honoured to add this new base and partnership to our service area."

This second northwest Washington location expands capacity for Life Flight Network's Port Angeles base, where demand is growing. The two service areas will support each other when the demand for timely response for air medical transport is high.

"Our partnership with Life Flight Network will further enhance local services available for our patients and communities and allow us to provide access to even more specialised care," says Ron Telles, WhidbeyHealth CEO. "We're proud to be their partner, and we welcome Life Flight Network to Whidbey Island."

In addition to serving Island County and neighbouring rural communities, the new base will strengthen emergency medical response for the state's population centre. Seattle is the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the US this decade, growing by nearly 19 percent and adding more than 114,000 people since 2010. The broader Puget Sound region, including Island, Jefferson, Kitsap, King, Snohomish and Skagit counties, is expected to gain at least 1.9 million people by 2050.

"Partnering with Life Flight Network to provide locally-based air medical transport is an unequivocal advantage to both WhidbeyHealth EMS and our community," says Sean LeVine, assistant manager of WhidbeyHealth EMS. "Life Flight Network's exemplary history of providing safe and compassionate care is consistent with the WhidbeyHealth mission. We welcome Life Flight Network and look forward to working with them."

The Whidbey Island base brings the total of helicopters serving the region from three to four. By comparison, the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area, a comparable-sized urban area with more than four million residents today, has eight helicopter bases serving its two-county landlocked region (Maricopa and Pinal counties).

“Helicopter air ambulance response is an essential health care service for a fast-growing urban area with traffic congestion among the worst in the country, in addition to some of the most challenging landscapes due to large bodies of water,” says Dr. Jim Bryan, Life Flight Network medical director. “During a medical emergency, every second counts. Helicopters are uniquely suited to respond to emergencies over bodies of water and during peak traffic times, when gridlock challenges ground ambulances to move quickly and safely.”

Life Flight Network will station an AgustaWestland AW109E helicopter at its Whidbey Island base. The AW109E is an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) capable aircraft, allowing safe operation in a range of weather conditions. The AW109E is one of the fastest light helicopters available and can cruise at 172 miles per hour. Each Life Flight Network helicopter is equipped with the medical equipment necessary to act as a mobile intensive care unit including video laryngoscopes, ICU level ventilators and blood products for emergency transfusions.

The new base will create nearly 20 new jobs on Whidbey Island. The aircraft will be staffed 24/7 with an ICU-level nurse, paramedic and a pilot. In addition to the medical staff based in Coupeville, Life Flight Network employs a full time dedicated medical director and associate medical directors to oversee medical care provided across its service region. Life Flight Network serves the western United States, including Alaska, from bases throughout the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West.

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