Life Flight Network currently operates nine fixed-wing aircraft, including one Cessna Citation CJ4 and eight Pilatus PC-12NG. The rotary fleet includes 29 helicopters: 21 Leonardo AW119Kx Koalas, seven Airbus EC135s, and one Leonardo AW109E Power. Bases are spread throughout a four-state region, with eight air bases in Oregon including the administrative offices; seven in Washington; five air bases in Idaho; and three in Montana. Life Flight Network also operates three ground ambulance bases located in Oregon and Washington. It employs more than 550 personnel across its four-state region.
Life Flight Network began as Emanuel Life Flight with a single helicopter in 1978. The programme was owned and operated by Emanuel Hospital (now Legacy Emanuel Medical Center) in Portland, Oregon. It was the first hospital-based air ambulance on the West Coast and only the fourth in the nation.
Today, with 24 bases, Life Flight Network is a nationally recognised air medical transport service covering thousands of square miles, all while never losing sight of its core mission – to serve the community by providing critical care transportation to ill or injured patients in a safe, compassionate, efficient, and expeditious manner.
The consortium of Oregon Health & Science University, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, and Providence Health & Services owns Life Flight Network. The combined strength of these world-class health institutions ensures the quality of the programme remains as safe and strong today as when it started in 1978.
Fleet, crew and kit
Although LFN provides significant input and final sign-off in the selection of medical interiors for our aircraft to best meet the needs of patients (full-body access), the outfit of all medical interiors for aircraft it outsourced to Spectrum Aeromed.
Nearly all equipment carried by LFN flight crews, regardless of aircraft type, is standardized. Each flight crew carries a primary bag which contains the most commonly used equipment, and is further augmented with other bags for less common situations. In all, all LFN aircraft are equipped with the necessary equipment and supplies to meet state regulations and provide ICU-level care to the patients we transport.
In addition to minimum hiring requirements of at least five years of experience in their respective discipline, each flight nurse and flight paramedic is required to obtain licensure in the state(s) they operate in, and to obtain certification as a flight nurse or flight paramedic through one of two international certification boards.
Education takes place monthly for each flight nurse, paramedic and respiratory therapist. Bi-annually, each clinician’s competency is validated on advanced skills such as needle thoracostomy, chest tube placement and management, needle cricothyrotomy, surgical cricothyrotomy, advanced airway management, and device management including ventilators, balloon pump, Impella devices, LVAD, and pacemakers. All education and competencies are overseen by the medical director.
Life Flight Network’s Medical Director, Dr Jim Bryan, was awarded Medical Director of the Year (2018) by the Oregon Health Authority. “I’m honoured and humbled by the award,” said Dr Bryan. “Even after 25 years of practicing medicine, there are new and exciting medical advancements to learn, teach and refine. I’m proud to be part of a team that shares my passion for excellence and constant improvement.”
Shannon Berg, spokesperson for the company, said: “The Oregon Health Authority honoured Dr Jim Bryan with Medical Director of the Year for his commitment to excellence and education in Emergency Medical Services. The honour recognises Dr Bryan’s career-long pursuit of ensuring and improving the highest levels of emergency medical care and training. Now in his tenth year as Life Flight Network’s medical director, Dr Bryan is one of only a few full-time medical directors for EMS agencies in the state. Life Flight Network’s clinical staff has long appreciated Dr Bryan’s guidance and mentoring, but we’re also proud that his contributions are being recognized by the medical community, at large.”
Looking to the future
Life Flight Network is constantly in search of new developments in medical, aviation and app technology that will allow it to pursue its mission of providing critical care transportation to ill or injured patients in a safe, compassionate, efficient and expeditious manner. Berg explained: “To that end, in 2018, Life Flight Network unveiled a new app called LFN Respond that allows hospitals and first responders to call for a life-saving air ambulance transport with the touch of a button. The tool, developed in partnership with dispatch software creator Flight Vector, saves valuable time when every second counts.” After the flight call button is activated, the app will send vital information and GPS location directly to dispatch personnel at Life Flight Network’s Communications Center. Once a flight call has been made using the app, users can view a real-time progress tracker that shows the aircraft’s location while en route and when it’s expected to arrive. “LFN Respond integrates seamlessly with Life Flight Network’s computer-aided dispatch and flight tracking software,” said Shannon Berg. The LFN Respond app provides additional functions including a searchable hospital directory, a landing zone guide, access to Life Flight Network’s calendar of outreach education trainings, and push notifications from Life Flight Network on education and training events.
On the aviation side, Life Flight Network has proactively installed HTAWs, TCAS, synthetic vision, and cockpit data recording (Appareo), keeping our team and patients’ safety years ahead of federally mandated requirements.
On the medical side, LFN has also purchased portable IABP balloon pump devices in lieu of using hospital pumps for transport, extending the ICU-level care provided to patients.