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A History of REACH Air Medical Services

Posted 12 years 203 days ago ago by Admin

A History of REACH Air Medical Services
Beginning in 1987 with one helicopter, the company now employs more than 300 people in California, Oregon and Texas.  Privately owned and operated, REACH is known not only for its mission-driven patient care, but also by its distinctive red aircraft, innovative safety initiatives, employee- and customer-centricity tenets and industry leadership. Reach Helicopter

The Founder
Passionate in his beliefs and fearless in his mission to, “Always do what is right for the patient,” the spirit of founder Dr. John L. McDonald lives today in REACH.  Dr. McDonald’s overriding passion for patients to receive timely, needed emergency care helped overcome personal and political obstacles, allowing REACH to become a recognized leader and innovator in air medical services.  Whether issues were financial (whether getting paid for a transport or not) or political (having his medical license threatened for “breaking a county regulation” that was in the best interest of the patient’s life), thousands upon thousands of people have benefitted from Dr. McDonald’s commitment.

REACH, originally an acronym for “Redwood Empire Air Care Helicopter” is headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, where their original base is still located today.  The company operates 12 bases with two more bases opening in the coming months.  To date, REACH has performed more than 55,000 air ambulance missions.
REACH’s leadership team is seasoned with industry expertise, passion and dedication to its mission.  Jim Adams, chief executive officer, has been at the helm of REACH since 2001, following Dr. McDonald’s untimely death in late 2000. 

Built on a Solid Foundation
In order to represent REACH, each nurse, paramedic, pilot and aircraft maintenance technician must share Dr. McDonald’s passion to do right for patients.  Each recruit is indoctrinated through a rigorous, unprecedented REACH Training Academy.  Best-of-the-best new-hires attend all-day classes for up to four weeks.  Clinical protocols, patient and customer interaction, specialized safety, aviation maintenance and flight training and company culture is presented to enhance their experience and ongoing learning.  Also straight from Dr. McDonald comes REACH’s specialty in pediatric and neonatal transports.  As evidenced by strong partnerships with Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, UCLA, Methodist Children’s of San Antonio, and UC Davis, its specialized education and training supports the smallest members of the many rural and urban communities REACH serves.

“REACH has always been committed to providing top-notch care to people of all ages,” said Dr. James Hanson, Vice President of Medical Affairs at Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland.  “However, their focus on children has been remarkable, because most transport companies don’t put out as much effort into the preparation and care of critically injured children.  We know REACH will do the right thing,” Hanson explained.

Behind the flight crews stand a cadre of equally dedicated support personnel from the communications and maintenance teams who respond 24/7 to the administrative people who are inspired by REACH’s family ownership, mission and successful, strategic growth plans.

Transporting a Patient to a Medical Center Involves a lot of Communication
REACH’s FirstCall Emergency Communications Center provides extraordinary customer and patient services.  The communications center is staffed 24/7 by compassionate and competent Communication Specialists.  One call results in immediate, focused and experienced coordination of critical patient care transport and referral in order to ensure continuity of quality care throughout the process.
The Aircraft Maintenance Department Offers Peace of Mind
REACH’s fleet of 18 helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft is supported by our FAA-licensed Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs). They provide superior aviation support and services for aircraft at all bases 24 hours a day to ensure the continued airworthiness, reliability and safety of its fleet. Each base is supported by full-time dedicated AMTs.  The fleet has an average age of 12 years, including the latest technology offered in Eurocopter’s EC135, with advanced avionics and engine controls, offering the optimum of safety and reliability.

Recognized as one of the preeminent modification shops in the industry, REACH’s team of FAA-licensed AMTs ensure their fleet is maintained to the highest maintenance and safety standards. REACH’s AMTs have taken great strides in customizing the aircraft cockpits and patient care cabins to better accommodate the needs and safety requirements of both patients and crew during critical care transports. They provide state-of-the-science service to facilitate the safe and efficient transfer of patients in critical situations.

“When I’m flying a REACH aircraft I know I have the best safety program, the newest technology, enthusiastic support from maintenance, a progressive management team, and highly trained medical crew members all in my corner,” said Dennis Smith, REACH pilot. “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my flying career,” Smith added.
Our Safety Philosophy:  “Living Risk Mitigation and Safety Management Culture”

The utmost extension of patient care is safety.  REACH leads the way by being among the first in the development of proprietary GPS routes to hospitals, use of night vision goggles, terrain awareness systems and a highly evolved web-based risk assessment tool.  Recently, REACH has been recognized as a leader in promoting a safety culture through a special invitation extended by the FAA to REACH CEO Jim Adams to present at an upcoming FAA-sponsored Safety Management System conference with industry leaders in attendance.

REACH is safety conscious.  Its State of the Industry HEMS Risk Assessment Tool is designed to prevent aircrews from accepting flights that would otherwise be considered acceptable per FAA regulations and REACH company policy, but are prohibitively hazardous due to the presence of multiple, cumulative and compounding risk factors.

REACH has been accepted into the Federal Aviation Administration’s SMS Pilot Program; working together to fully integrate the four pillars of safety management – safety policy and objectives, safety risk management, safety assurance and safety promotion – throughout all operations at REACH.

REACH’s positive safety culture has five components – reporting, just, informed, learning and flexibility – which are fully embraced.  Employees willingly report errors and system deficiencies.  An atmosphere of trust encourages employees to provide essential safety information so there is current knowledge about human, technical, organizational and environmental factors.  People reach the correct conclusions from safety information, and implement reforms when and where they are needed, and employees adapt effectively to the different demands of technical problems and adaptive challenges.

Making a Difference
Some believe the best part of their jobs at REACH is hearing back from patients they have transported, knowing they have made a difference in their lives and the lives of those who love them.
“Because of REACH I am alive today.  I would not be here had I gone by ground ambulance.  In fact, that day I had my time of death declared three times.  Some would say that was a bad day – I think it was good.  I see things differently now,” said Jim Wilson, known as the “Miracle Man.”

“Your crew’s every move while extending medical care to my tiny lifeless child was deliberate and masterful.  Your pilot explained procedures clearly and I knew exactly what to expect before, during and after the flight,” said a father of a survivor.

Something REACH is Proud Of
External recognition has come in many forms, but is perhaps expressed best in the response of CAMTS (Commission on Accreditation of Air Medical Transport Services) evaluators, during and after REACH site visits.  Frequent references to excellent clinical care and the statement that REACH is a model program confirms that Dr. McDonald’s vision holds true.  As REACH continues to grow through preferred provider and public/private partnerships, it strives to innovate and focus on safety and customer satisfaction, Dr. McDonald’s simple “business plan” is proven – the constant pursuit of excellence in patient and customer care results in a winning strategy for all involved with REACH.

In 2011 REACH earned the Diamond Certified designation, rated by American Ratings Corporation (ARC).  REACH passed each of the 12-step rating and certification process.  The ARC pulled a random test sample of customers from our company’s files and surveyed them by phone.  REACH scored a composite score of 96.5 out of 100.
“Comments and lessons learned for our Diamond Certified experience inspire us and push us to learn in those areas where we can stand to improve,” said Jim Adams, CEO.  “Dr. McDonald would be proud of all of us – this survey shows we continue to ‘do what is right for the patient,’” Adams commented.