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North Bay Business Journal

Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 5:42 pm

REACH Air Medical to buy air lift service in Oregon

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    SANTA ROSA — REACH Air Medical Services, based in Santa Rosa, Wednesday revealed plans to acquire the Emergency AirLift service based in Bend, Ore.

    Emergency AirLift has operated in Oregon for about 10 years, using helicopters and airplanes to transport patients. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

    REACH helicopter

    REACH helicopter

    REACH has partners Cal-Ore Life Flight in Brookings, Ore., and AirLink Critical Care Transport in Bend.

    REACH/Cal-Ore is led by Sean Russell, president, who said in a statement: “Through our partnerships, we have assembled a highly capable group of air providers to serve the region.”

    The company has about 20 helicopters and two fixed-wing planes, and can handle neonatal transports in the North Bay. Each helicopter makes roughly 400 transport flights a year. A typical helicopter 911 call or other medical air transport bill runs $20,000 to $30,000.

    Company revenue is $100 million, with nearly 450 employees once the Oregon acquisition is completed. The company is hiring in the Mendocino and Sacramento markets.

    On July 30, REACH expanded its helicopter service to include a new base in Willits Municipal Airport in Mendocino County. Now REACH Air Medical Services operates out of 20 bases.

    REACH was founded in 1987 by an emergency room physician, Dr. John McDonald. In an interview with Dr. McDonald that year, he promoted the then-controversial proposal to create a regional trauma center in Sonoma County. That trauma center was finally designated years later at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

    Dr. McDonald kept careful track of emergency room patients and concluded that a trauma center in Sonoma County could save lives by rushing critically injured patients to a highly specialized trauma team that could provide care within the “golden hour” or “platinum half hour” following major injury. The helicopter medical transport was Dr. McDonald’s early contribution to a trauma care system in the North Bay.

    Dr. McDonald died in 2000 at age 63 in a crash of his own plane near Windsor, the same year that the trauma center was designated in Santa Rosa at the hospital where he worked many years.

    REACH has operations in California, Oregon and Texas.

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