Yakima hospital says airlifting certain patients elsewhere more cost-effective

Yakima hospital says airlifting certain patients elsewhere more cost-effective
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Hundreds of trauma victims are flown out of Yakima every year. They go to Seattle or other cities in Washington for treatment. KIMA learned why some severe cases aren't treated here.

Tami Cyzsz works as a flight nurse with Airlift Northwest. KIMA met her at the Yakima Air Terminal after her team took a patient to Oregon. They have to be ready to go at any time.

"To get a patient to Harborview or to any other hospital on the west side in a quick and efficient manner, giving good care on the way, it's non-replaceable," said Cyzsz.

Airlift Northwest is among three companies that fly patients from Yakima County to hospitals outside the city. A lot of them wind up at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. It's the only Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma center among Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.

Since 2011, Airlift Northwest has airlifted more than 700 patients from the two hospitals in Yakima. Life Flight and Northwest Medstar are competitors, but don't handle as many patients.

I spoke with the E.R. manager at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital to find out why so many patients are moved.

"More and more states, as physicians become more specialized, are relying on centers of excellence," said Kim Bersing. "And, so you can't spread those resources across a whole state sometimes."

It's about saving money. Having the latest equipment in every hospital across the state would get too expensive. Seattle hospitals treat people who need a high level of care for burns, pediatric trauma and some stroke cases.

"I want patients to get the best care for the condition that they have," said Bersing. "And, if Seattle is where that's provided, then that's where I want them to be."

For Tami, it's all in a day's work.

"It kind of closes the loop. You know you've gotten them where they need to go."

In drastic situations, that could mean getting help far from home.

Airlift Northwest, along with its competitors, provide air and ground transport services throughout Central Washington. The companies take patients not just to Seattle, but to Spokane and the Tri-Cities as well.