MEDFORD, Ore. — Mercy Flights announced on Monday that it will add a new helicopter to its Southern Oregon fleet in order to meet the growing need for medical transport in the region.
The new Bell 407 GXi aircraft is scheduled arrive at Mercy Flights headquarters in Medford during the second week of January, and will likely begin transporting patients by the beginning of February, pending Federal Aviation Administration approval.
Sheila Clough, Mercy Flights CEO, said the decision to add a new helicopter to the Mercy Flights fleet came from an extensive assessment of community needs, including input from the flight team, healthcare systems, and community partners. Mercy Flights also received access to a special non-profit financing option from the Oregon Facilities Authority.
“When we looked carefully at the current and future needs of our neighbors and our health care partners, it was clear that a new helicopter was the answer to enhance the care and service we provide for our communities. The special loan rates will allow us to expand our fleet while maintaining affordable memberships and services,” said Clough.
Clough served as CEO for Asante Ashland before joining Mercy Flights in June of 2020. She says that local hospital systems are becoming more advanced in the level of care they provide, which changes how the non-profit responds.
“More patients are staying in Southern Oregon for advanced, or tertiary, hospital care. This is incredibly good news for all of us who live here. It also means that the demand for medical transports is changing. We anticipate, in the near future, fewer flights to bigger cities like Portland and Seattle because our local healthcare partners are providing incredible care right here at home,” said Clough. “What we need in our region is additional capacity for transport to and between facilities.”
Helicopters are ideal for responses in predominantly rural areas like Southern Oregon, Clough continued.
In honor of Mercy Flights founder George Milligan, Clough teamed up with Pirkko Terao — current board member and Milligan's granddaughter — and her family to select tail number N973MF, referencing Millgan's year of retirement.
“Mercy flights continues to invest in the health and wellbeing of our Southern Oregon and Northern California communities, said Clough. “As the only nonprofit air and ground medical transport company in Oregon, our decisions to invest in new equipment and technology are measured and thoughtful. We don’t make them alone, we collaborate with our skilled team members, our board of directors and our valued community to grow with the needs of our neighbors, friends and families. We’re here for the long haul.”