New Salem Life Flight base expected to reduce response time

(Courtesy/Berg & Associates)

Willamette Valley residents needing critical care can soon get a faster flight to a hospital when a new transport base opens in Salem in July, the Life Flight Network announced Thursday.

The country’s largest not-for-profit air medical transport service, based in Aurora, will provide 24-hour service in the Willamette Valley and surrounding areas, according to a news release.

The service transports thousands of patients each year in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana – many living in rural communities – who need rapid, critical care.

The helicopter base is expected to open July 1 at the Salem Municipal Airport, said Michael Weimer, vice president for Region 1, which includes Oregon and portions of Idaho and southeast Washington.

It will allow helicopters to be dispatched directly from Salem to pick up patients and transport them to a hospital.

Weimer said the Life Flight Network has served Salem and its surrounding areas for over four decades but wanted to expand into the city as it’s seen significant growth in recent years.

“The current growth and future growth is going to be in that area,” Weimer said of Salem. “Our goal is to serve the needs of the communities, and having a critical care helicopter there to serve those needs.”

Crews can provide various forms of life-saving medical care on the aircraft while transporting patients, including managing intensive care ventilators and emergency blood transfusions.

The helicopters have flight nurses and flight paramedics on board in addition to the pilot.

“Certainly there are some staffing challenges in the medical industry right now, but I don’t anticipate problems,” Weimer said.

Life Flight Network has helicopter bases in Astoria, Aurora, Cottage Grove, La Grande, Newport, Ontario, Pendleton and Redmon. It has airplane bases in Aurora and La Grande as well as ambulances in Aurora, Portland and Springfield.

“Air medical resources are a lifeline for rural communities’ access to specialty care across Oregon. At Life Flight Network we are excited for the opening of a base in Salem as it represents our steadfast commitment to the healthcare partners in the Willamette Valley and the surrounding area,” said Dr. Tom Lorish, Providence Health & Services spokesman and an owner representative on the Life Flight Network Board of Directors, in a statement. 

-Ardeshir Tabrizian