Island Air Ambulance and San Juan Island EMS will part ways beginning April 1. The medevac service will continue to transport San Juan County residents but will become their own fully staffed and equipped business separate from EMS.
“This has kind of been in the works for awhile,” said Jackie Hamilton, owner of Island Air. “We’re working very hard to make it a nice, seamless transition.”
Island Air Ambulance provides county residents and visitors with basic life support transport in an airplane between county airports and airports in Bellingham and Seattle. Currently Island Air provides medevac flights through a contract with San Juan Island EMS and district residents receive zero out-of-pocket billing for all in-district ground, marine, and Island Air Ambulance flights. The membership for Island Air is $45 per year. As far as how patients will be billed for services, Hamilton said they are working to keep the charges the same as the current operations.
“Our goal is for there not to be change,” she added.
If you currently have a membership with the medevac service through EMS, Island Air will honor it until it expires. According to Hamilton, Island will have their own program for members coming out soon.
“For the patient the transition should be seamless,” she said.
EMS personnel have also been vocal that for the patient they should not notice anything different in service except in personnel. The other major medical transport organization isAirlift Northwest is the University of Washington-affiliated emergency medical transport that uses helicopters to fly critical-care patients directly to Seattle and Bellingham hospitals. The AirCare membership for transport by Airlift Northwest helicopter costs $79 a year in Washington. Airlift Northwest also has a fixed wing aircraft.
Stay tuned for more updates about the Island Air Ambulance and how it will operate independently from San Juan Island EMS.
– Courtney Oldwyn contributed to this piece