Healthcare Special Section
Healthcare Special Section
Guardians of the North Slope

uardian Flight Alaska’s mission is “to provide safe, compassionate, and efficient air medical transportation,” across Alaska, including Southeast, Southcentral, Western Alaska, the Aleutian Chain, and the Arctic, a region the company expanded into in 2018 when it established a base in Deadhorse. “We’ve been up there just over a year now… we weren’t sure about the demand, but the demand has been pretty steady throughout the entire year. We are pleased that we made the decision to start operating on the North Slope,” reports Guardian Flight Alaska Executive Director Jared Sherman.

He says Guardian Flight Alaska expanded to North Slope operations to better service the people there. Weather on the North Slope can significantly delay transportation, and the delay is even longer when a plane needs to first fly from Fairbanks to reach the patient. “[If] we are on site [on the Slope], we have a lot better opportunity to get out because you’re not projecting the weather three or four hours out; when you get the window of good weather, you can leave then.”

Sherman gives the example of a recent transport: “The crew that did the transport contacted me afterwards, and they said having a plane in Deadhorse just saved a life… The patient had a severe heart attack, but oddly had a pretty good physical presentation. The weather was bad enough that we could not have landed there from Fairbanks. They had to wait for weather to clear a little bit, but within seventy-five minutes of the patient arriving at the clinic [they were able to fly out]. So they made it to the cath lab in Anchorage without his presentation deteriorating despite a 90 percent-plus occlusion [the blockage or closing of a blood vessel].”

Most of the patients that Guardian Flight Alaska services are workers in the oil field, though some are North Slope residents. The patient’s healthcare provider determines if and when a patient needs to be transported off the slope and to which facility the patient should be transported, at which point the healthcare provider will coordinate with Guardian Flight Alaska.

Working well with healthcare providers is pivotal for the medevac company, and the Alaska Arctic is a unique living and working environment that presents a steep learning curve. “Early on we had to learn the cadence of the North Slope; getting through security to get to clinics, those types of things, were just not the norm for everywhere else we operate. But the industry has been super supportive and really helped us solve those types of problems,” he says. “We did a ton of work with each of the clinics just to let them know what our capabilities are and that they can notify us early on so we can be even more ready to support them.