Air medical transport to stand up operations in Hoquiam

A local base should cut down medevac times when time is most critical.

Air medical transport nonprofit Life Flight Network announced they will stand up a new critical care transport base in Hoquiam at Bowerman Field.

Operations in Hoquiam will begin in mid-spring, according to a news release from the company.

“It’ll be nice to have them here,” said Hoquiam Fire Chief Matt Miller in an interview. “It’s nice to know we have them literally right in town.”

Life Flight has operated in the region for years, but competing emergencies and extended flight times to cover the distance can draw out the time for airplanes or helicopters to get on scene and medevac the patient.

Time is absolutely critical when striving for positive medical outcomes, Miller said, especially for severe cases involving conditions such as strokes, cardiac issues or extraordinary physical trauma.

In Washington, there are a number of facilities with high-capability facilities for various medical conditions, such as Harborview Medical Center, where patients can get better care than might otherwise be available at local hospitals. An aircraft can medevac patients there much more rapidly than an ambulance, constrained by traffic and the region’s geography.

“You want to get them to a certain level of care in a certain time frame and the best way to do that is by aircraft,” Miller said. “Since (Life Flight) is going to have them right here, it’s much closer.”

The expansion has been discussed for several years, said Life Flight public relations specialist Natalie Hannah.

“We are always looking at our footprint and looking at new rural areas that might be underserved when it comes to air medical services,” Hannah said in a phone interview. “The Grays Harbor area is an area we’ve looked at for quite a while.”

Bowerman will host both airplanes and helicopters, according to the news release. Miller said that departments in the area have worked with Life Flight for years, doing regular familiarizations with procedures like setting up a landing zone for a helicopter or getting a patient on a stretcher into an aircraft.

The move will create about 20 jobs at the airport, according to the news release. These range from medical personnel to the pilots and mechanics themselves, Hannah said; hiring for those positions is underway.

“We come in as an additional team member to the (emergency medical services) in the region,” Hannah said. “We operate as partners.”

Life Flight will fund its operations locally through transport fees, similar to regular ambulance service, Miller said. The organization also offers memberships, designed to negate potentially steep transport fees.

Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or