SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Airlift Northwest's History
By Shelly Deering


September 16, 2009

In 1978, a Sitka house fire left 3 children severely burned. Dr. Michael Copass, founder of Airlift Northwest, was teaching there at the time and spent the day assisting Dr. Longenbaugh in caring for and trying to arrange transfer of these critically injured children to the regional burn center in Seattle. The children died before this could happen.

Dr. Copass came away from this experience saying "This is the last time any doctor will have to get on the phone and beg someone to come help a child." Airlift Northwest was born, and for more than 27 years we have transported critically ill or injured patients from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. A plane has been based in Juneau for over 15 years to further improve service to our Alaska patients.

To date we have flown approximately 7000 patients out of Southeast Alaska. Our nurses and pilots average 400 hours of community service each year, which includes teaching classes to health care professionals, attending health fairs, and other activities. Airlift Northwest is the only Southeast Alaska provider that is certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems (CAMTS) an international certification with a focus on clinical excellence and safety for patients and crew.

Airlift Northwest is a non-profit organization with the financial goal of covering costs and utilizing remaining funds to upgrade equipment and aircraft. Rates increase each year with the cost of living to accomplish this. Our rates are comparable to flight programs in Anchorage, Washington, and Oregon. To assure the most experienced nurse teams and the highest quality patient care possible, we are affiliated with Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington and Seattle Children s. These outstanding medical facilities are our partners in patient care - they do not provide financial subsidies.

Airlift Northwest is committed to transporting extremely sick patients whether they live in Alaska or elsewhere. All emergent flights are charged the same. We are very aware of soaring health care costs and the toll they take on our patients. To help, we offer a Special Assistance Program to financially distressed patients. Each year that fund provides approximately $5 million to cover their care from Airlift Northwest. We also offer our AirCare membership program for $79 a year, which covers the cost of transport that isn t picked up by a patient s insurance.

We are proud of our excellent record of patient care, our community service and our prudent fiscal management. Our roots are deep in Southeast Alaska and we plan to be here "serving Alaskans" for many years.

Shelly Deering
Airlift Northwest Alaska Manager
Juneau, AK


Received September 15, 2009 - Published September 16, 2009


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Ketchikan, Alaska