New air ambulance launches in La Grande

By Kelly Ducote / The Observer October 11, 2013 10:27 am

Flight medics Trese Helstowski, left, and Colt Hardcastle check equipment on Air Life’s Eurocopter AS350-B, which is equipped with a variety of critical care supplies. The new air ambulance service began operations at the Union County Airport Wednesday with a staff of four pilots, eight clinical crew members and one mechanic. (Phil Bullock/The Observer)
Flight medics Trese Helstowski, left, and Colt Hardcastle check equipment on Air Life’s Eurocopter AS350-B, which is equipped with a variety of critical care supplies. The new air ambulance service began operations at the Union County Airport Wednesday with a staff of four pilots, eight clinical crew members and one mechanic. (Phil Bullock/The Observer)
 

A new air ambulance service began operations at the Union County Airport Wednesday.

The program launched this week with a staff of four pilots, eight clinical crew members and one mechanic. Air Life has at its base a Eurocopter AS350-B, which is equipped with a variety of critical care supplies.

“We are very excited to be part of this community and to bring this additional air medical resource to the citizens of Union County and the surrounding area,” said Chris Burn, regional vice president of Air Methods, the parent company of Air Life.

Toni Jones, Air Life business development manager, said they are operational and ready to go, though there are still unknowns regarding the 911 system.

“We’re meeting next week to discuss rotation on the 911 system,” she said.

County commissioners will hold a hearing Wednesday morning to discuss Air Life’s request for a rotating system since the county now has two air ambulance service providers.

“That (911 dispatch) is just one way that we may get a call,” Jones said. They can still receive direct calls for service.

Air Life offers Omni Advantage, an air medical membership program that essentially provides some insurance in case transport is needed. Air Life also has a reciprocity agreement with Life Flight Network’s membership program, so that anyone transported by either program with either membership program will be covered.

Air Life medical personnel are trained to provide critical care versus advanced life support or basic life support.

Doug Kinney, a registered nurse for Air Life, said that means “basically anything you can do in an ER or ICU, we do that inside a helicopter if we need to.”

Kinney said that also means they do not have specialities like pediatrics or geriatrics.

“We take care of all walks of life,” he said.

Jones, who has lived in Northeast Oregon her whole life, said there’s no law that says only one accident can happen at a time.

“We are really excited to be another piece of the advanced medical care puzzle in Eastern Oregon. Everyone has a part to play,” she said. “It’s important to have the additional life-saving resources.”

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.