Letters to the Editor

Needs of patient come first in decision over medical air transport | Letters

Helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft? Island Air Ambulance or Airlift Northwest?

Much has been written in the last six months about the differences between the two air medical transport services. The bottom line: Both companies provide safe, effective and essential air transport service. San Juan County residents benefit from having both complementary services available.

When a person in San Juan County is injured or becomes critically ill and requires a higher level of care than is available locally, medical professionals on the ground use Washington state protocols to determine the most appropriate transportation option.

Do patient needs demand direct transportation from the scene to a hospital? A helicopter is likely the best option. If the patient’s needs are less time-sensitive, then airport-to-airport via a fixed-wing aircraft might make the most sense.

Put simply, the means of air medical transport is based on the needs of the patient first and foremost.

Patient and crew safety, medical expediency and necessity are the primary factors considered. The decision is never based on financial issues or business concerns.

Collaboration between Island Air Ambulance and Airlift Northwest is essential, and we are committed to keep the communication lines open and to work together to ensure that island residents understand that our respective standards of safety, expediency and high quality care are consistent and appropriately applied. The residents of San Juan County deserve no less.

Chris Martin/Executive director, Airlift Northwest

Jim Cole/Chief, San Juan Island EMS and MedEvac

Dr. Michael Sullivan/Medical program director, SJC EMS, Trauma Council

Nancy Steiger/NW Network CEO & chief mission officer, PeaceHealth


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