By now, most islanders have heard or read about a number of denials from Kaiser Permanente associated with medical air transport by either Airlift Northwest or Island Air. The situation has impacted residents throughout the County and is part of what’s emerging as a national trend to more closely monitor the necessity of emergency air transport. As is the case with many issues related to the delivery of health care, we are very different here in San Juan County and emergency air transport is an essential component of  care delivery for islanders.

The OIHCD Superintendent learned about this emerging situation soon after the start of the year, and reached out to Kaiser to better understand what was happening. Over the past two months, Superintendent Presson has been working very closely with Orcas Island Fire & Rescue (OIFR) Chief Williams, Orcas Island County Council Member Rick Hughes, the San Juan County EMS Medical Director, and various other leaders throughout the County. In addition, Superintendent Presson has been working with Mark Tompkins, Director of SJC Department of Health & Community Services and the Board of Health, as the Board became very concerned with the implications on public health should this trend continue. There was a very informative discussion at the February 20th Board of Health meeting, which included representatives from both Airlift Northwest and Island Air. Click on the Board of Health video link to see live and recorded meetings.

At this point, the physician leadership from the County and Kaiser Permanente are scheduled to meet in an effort to resolve the situation. This will include a review of the processes in place that ensure every medical air transport in the County is at the direction of an emergency medical professional. The OIHCD Superintendent remains actively involved and will continue to provide updates.

For anyone who has experienced an air transport denial, both air operators have customer service representatives to assist you. Please contact either Airlift Northwest at 866-245-4373, or Island Air at 360-378-2376. In addition, islanders are welcome to contact OIFR for assistance.