Ask any first responder, paramedic, nurse or physician who worked in emergency medicine in Maine in the 1990s and most of them will have a story about a patient whose death was the tragic result of a survivable injury. They were simply too far away from the care they needed to save their life.
Made up of small, remote and widely dispersed communities, Maine has historically faced challenges of geography, especially when it came to healthcare. When someone is sick or hurt in rural Maine, how do we overcome the time and distance between the patient and the lifesaving care?
In the late 1990s, leaders at Northern Light Health and Central Maine Healthcare came together with a singular vision: to improve emergency care for everyone in the state, no matter where they lived. They understood that to achieve this vision, they had to focus on access. If your father had a heart attack on Main Street in Rumford, he would have access to the same care as someone who had a heart attack on Main Street in Lewiston. If your daughter was in a car accident on State Street in Houlton, she would have access to the same care as someone who was in a car accident on State Street in Bangor.
In a rural state like Maine, an air ambulance was the most efficient way to make sure everyone could access the care they needed in an emergency, and so LifeFlight was born. Using helicopters, specialized medical equipment, and a team of nurses and medics with advanced training, LifeFlight has greatly improved emergency care over the last 20 years.
Today, our vision is still about access. Healthcare is continually evolving, the economic realities of Maine are always in flux, population demographics shift. Things change.
Amidst this change, our goal has remained constant: to help people in their most critical moments of need, and to improve their chances at survival and recovery. The patient might look different – might be older, might require more complex treatment with more advanced medical technology – and therefore, the care we provide has also progressed. LifeFlight’s teams carry more advanced equipment, have an expanded scope of practice, and are guided by the most current medical therapies. However, the fundamental goal of providing access to the best care in order to save more lives hasn’t changed. It continues to be the driving force behind everything we do.