ESCANABA – Valley Med Flight is looking to expand in the Upper Peninsula. The company is opening a facility in Sault Ste. Marie on May 1.
The move comes three years since the company started its helicopter service in Escanaba. Valley Med also has fixed-wing planes in Houghton and Iron Mountain.
Patrick Siegle, base coordinator for Valley Med Flight in Escanaba, said the company has seen tremendous growth since its start in North Dakota in 2011.
“From the one base in 2011 to, this will be the 13 base in the Sault starting in May so insurance companies, medical professionals have realized that getting the people to where they need to go is the name of the game,” he said.
Despite the growth, Siegle says he feels the company is still underutilized as the medical community and emergency responders get use to working with the flight staff.
It’s just taken time,” Siegle said. “We have to go out and spend time with every fire department, police department, EMS agencies doing landing zone classes. Quite honestly, I didn’t think it would be such a big task but I started this in May of 2014 and we are still going out on weekly basis doing landing zone and educational classes with the different organization.”
More than 200 people attended an open house Friday at the new Valley Med hanger at OSF St. Francis Hospital. The crew started using the hanger in November.
It includes space for the ASTar helicopter, offices and housing for staff on call.
“No one gets to fly with us unless they are really sick so having an understanding of what the helicopter is, how it operates and meeting the crews makes it easier if they ever have to utilize the aircraft,” Siegle said.
Being close to the hospital has also been a benefit. Siegle said it allows paramedics to respond faster to emergency situations.