Oregon-based Life Flight Network takes over Northwest MedStar

Life Flight Network, an Oregon-based air ambulance company, has purchased Northwest MedStar, a nonprofit air ambulance company run by Inland Northwest Heath Services in Spokane.

The merger of the two air ambulance companies gives Life Flight Network a monopoly on helicopter medical transport in Eastern Washing and North Idaho.

The financial terms of the merger, which was complete as of April 1, were not released.

Northwest MedStar has bases in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Moses Lake, Pullman and Brewster and in Missoula, Mont. All of its flights are conducted by Metro Aviation, Inc., which also has operational control of all Northwest MedStar aircraft.

Life Flight Network, which is the largest non-for-profit air medical service in the nation, is owned by a consortium of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and Providence Health & Services. Life Flight’s helicopter services are provided by Life Flight Network and its fixed-wing services are provided by Life Flight Network and Jackson Jet Center. Life Flight has 16 bases across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Aviation Services provided by Metro Aviation to existing Northwest MedStar bases will continue through a transition period, officials said.

With the merger, Providence, which owns Inland Northwest Heath Services in Spokane, will increase its stake in Life Flight as one of the four nonprofit hospitals to own the service.

Officials said the collaboration will create an expanded, hospital-owned and community-based company built on a foundation of safety, customer service and clinical excellence.

“Similar to how Northwest MedStar was formed more than two decades ago, this collaboration takes best practices from each program to create a broader, more comprehensive air medical service,” said Nancy Vorhees, chief administrative officer for MedStar and INHS.

Both Northwest MedStar and Life Flight Network are nationally-recognized critical care transport organizations that are certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems. ICU-level transport services will continue without interruption, officials said.

Most of the Northwest MedStar employees — 140 of them — are now employees of Life Flight. Justin Dillingham, Life Flight’s chief customer officer, said a few MedStar personnel retired and a handful of others, including a couple of managers, went to work for other employers

Prior to the merger, Life Flight employed about 400 workers. It will open new helicopter bases in Colville and Walla Walla and add a fixed-wing aircraft to the existing base in Moses Lake, which will also add positions.

“We continually evaluate critical care transport needs and determined adding bases and positioning an additional airplane in the region further meets the needs of the communities we serve,” said Michael Griffiths, Life Flight CEO.

Those with current Northwest MedStar memberships will automatically become Life Flight Network members and will receive notice from Life Flight a month before membership expires.

Dillingham said operations at the Richland airport will remain the same, just transition to the Life Flight name. The Richland operation includes about 30 employees, a fixed-wing aircraft, a helicopter, and two ground ambulances to support a critical care team, a neo-pediatric team, a ground advanced life support team and a ground critical care EMT.

With the integration of MedStar and the two additional bases, Life Flight will be the largest nationally-recognized not-for-profit air ambulance program, with 27 helicopters, 10 fixed-wing airplanes, 22 air medical bases and more than 600 employees. Its combined membership program will cover more than 200,000 families and individuals.

“Each and every time our teams are sent out, the lives of family members and loved ones are in our care,” said Griffiths. “We take that responsibility, along with safety, to be the two most important values of Life Flight Network.”

For more information, go to lifeflight.org.

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