Saturday, August 05, 2017

Airlift helicopter to be stationed at Bremerton National Airport (KPWT)

Airlift Northwest, which provides emergency medical air transport for Kitsap County, will station a helicopter at Bremerton National Airport for the first time on Aug. 15. 

Currently, when a trauma incident in Kitsap County requires a patient to be flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a helicopter comes over from Boeing Field in Seattle.

South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Guy Dalrymple said the Boeing Field helicopter was flying across Puget Sound so often, Airlift Northwest felt it best to station an aircraft in West Sound.

Airlift Northwest averages three to four flights across the sound per day in the summer. Demand goes down in the winter, averaging one to two flights per day. 

Dalrymple said airlift response times from the new location could drop to as low as seven minutes, as opposed to 20 minutes from Seattle. That's critical given what first responders call the "golden hour" -— patients' odds of survival increase significantly if they are transported to a hospital in less than an hour.

Airlift Northwest will staff the new Bremerton location with 12 nurses, four pilots and one mechanic. The employees will mainly commute from Seattle but some have moved closer. They will take 24-hour shifts each.  

Burn patients, trauma victims and other people with critical injuries are often taken to Harborview, the region's only level one trauma center. 

Patients with heart and other health problem are typically taken to Harrison Medical Center or other local hospitals. Brenda Nelson, chief flight nurse for Airlift Northwest, said every case is different.

“It’s depending on what traffic is like or if the bridge is open,” Nelson said. “People on ground or physicians decide where the patients will go. If it’s an unknown destination we'll figure it out when we get on the ground.”

Dalrymple said atmospheric conditions have previously caused problems for airlift helicopters stationed in Seattle.

“If it’s foggy over the water it’s difficult to know what the conditions are over here,” he said.

Dalrymple recalls an incident this year when a trauma patient was taken to Seattle by ambulance when a helicopter probably could have done the job.

“We had an incident where a critical patient from a collision needed to get to Harborview and initially they said they would be there in 20 minutes but they thought there was fog in the landing zone even though there wasn’t,” he said.

The aircraft can cover a 150-mile radius, which reaches all the way to the coast.

“This will improve operations in the peninsula and Mason County significantly,” Dalrymple said.

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