2014-06-12 / Front Page

Up, Up and away

CritiCal Care heliCopter provider now serviCes area

Above, a Valley Med Flight, Inc. employee helps one local girl try out safety gear in the helicopter. At right, another employee explains gurney placement to a SMH employee.

MANISTIQUE – Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital was buzzing with activity Tuesday, as a helicopter visited and provided rides to several lucky individuals. The visit was part of a recent tour by Valley Med Flight, Inc. to showcase the helicopter, which will be servicing the area.

Upon landing near a small crowd behind SMH, the occupants of the Valley Med helicopter exited and explained the service, offered tours of the aircraft, and eventually provided four lucky spectators a chance for a quick flight around Manistique.

The new service is an affiliation between Marquette General Hospital and Valley Med, and the helicopter will be stationed in Escanaba. It will provide 24/7 air ambulance coverage for residents of the Upper Peninsula, including Manistique.

According to Jake Keller, Valley Med Flight’s Service Director, Valley Med is considered a critical care air ambulance provider. He noted the North Dakota-based business currently has one fixed-wing plane in Iron Mountain, but soon saw the need to expand.

“We’ve realized that the airplane can’t do everything that we need it to,” he said. “It does a lot – it does great for long distance transports; it’s good for really junky weather that happens here quite a bit in the U.P. … but this helicopter is going to allow us to take care of patients that we weren’t able to before.”

Keller said the helicopter has the unique ability to land at scenes of accidents, as well as at the hospitals themselves, as opposed to having to land a plane at the airport and take an ambulance to and from the hospital.

“This is a phenomenal aircraft. It will let us take patients to places like Marquette in fractions of the time it traditionally takes to go by ground,” he said. “Patients are going to see faster transports – getting to that level of care that they need a lot sooner, which will save a lot of lives. That’s the goal.”

A flight from Escanaba to Manistique averages around 20 minutes in the helicopter, while a flight from Manistique to Marquette will take approximately 28 minutes.

“What our mission and what our goal is with this helicopter is just to better serve the residents of the U.P. and provide the full circle of care versus what we were limited to with only the plane before,” Keller said. “This is really an exciting new adventure for Valley Med Flight up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”

According to Keller, the helicopter was officially up and running as of Monday. The aircraft will respond to any transport that an ascending provider deems appropriate, he explained, which means it doesn’t always have to be a drastic emergency.

“Anyone who would have a better outcome based on a shorter transport,” Keller said.

In a recent press release from MGH, it was noted that Valley Med is the sole owner of the medical transport business and MGH is not subsidizing the cost of the service, but rather acting as a Valley Med emergency transport affiliate location

“We are pleased to have our trusted partner, Valley Med Flight, provide this service for the people of the Upper Peninsula,” Ed Banos, Marquette General CEO said in the release. “Our primary concern as a regional medical center is providing excellent care to our patients and having an air ambulance is going to advance the health and safety of our patients to the next level.”

Valley Med Flight is owned and managed by Air Medical Resource Group. AMRG is the fourth largest air medical provider in the nation and currently transports more than 11,000 patients per year.

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