$3 million Med Flight facility in Portage will be completed in July

May 9, 2019

University of Wisconsin Health says the Med Flight facility that’s under construction at Divine Savior Healthcare in Portage should be operational by the end of July.

Construction started in mid-March for a 5,000-square-foot hangar and 2,500-square-foot auxiliary building that will house a Med Flight crew, their offices and supplies -- the project completely funded by UW Health at a cost between $3 million and $3.5 million.

Much of the exterior work was already finished when crews managed by Findorff Construction out of Madison started working this week on interior projects including indoor plumbing, electrical and in-floor heating, Divine Savior Director of Facilities Jeff Thompson said Thursday. The project is on track for completion July 3, at which point the site will be turned over to UW Health.

Portage becomes the third Med Flight locations for UW Health, the others in Madison and Mineral Point.

“The biggest thing for people to understand is this isn’t us just plopping down in the middle of Portage, unannounced,” said Dr. Ryan Wubben, head of UW Health pre-hospital medicine and a flight physician. “We’re very much mindful of integrating this in a responsible and seamless fashion with the emergency staff at Divine Savior Healthcare, and we have done a lot of work to make it seamless.”

The addition of a third aircraft means that Med Flight will soon employ 12 pilots instead of eight, Wubben said, and will also increase, by roughly 33 percent, the current number flight physicians (20) and nurses (15) it employs. Med Flight missions involve crews of three -- one pilot, flight physician and nurse -- and the new Portage facility will be staffed accordingly for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

“If you take a 180-degree sweep, with Portage in the middle, and look out to the horizon from Reedsburg to Beaver Dam and points north, that’s a really busy area for us, and this (station) puts us that much closer to where things are happening,” Wubben said of soon-to-be boosted response times.

“It puts us about 20 or so minutes closer to that whole swath of area.”

Michael Decker, DSH president and CEO, said the addition bolsters an already strong local emergency response. The hospital in Portage houses six emergency vehicles -- five ground ambulances and one intercept vehicle -- which in 2018 responded to 2,913 emergency calls.

“It really just gives everybody that extra reassurance,” Decker said of Med Flight. “When seconds count, we have our ground ambulance services, which we’re very proud of, and then having Med Flight here just raises everything up.”

The only downside to the Med Flight addition, Decker joked, “is a few lost parking spots” during construction.

Thompson and the hospital’s marketing and community relations director, Haley Gilman, pointed out how the Med Flight project follows two other major additions to the Portage campus -- the Tivoli nursing home in 2010 and the Wellness Center in 2016.

“This is part of the vision,” Gilman said, “to have all of these services, everything, located right here in the community.”

“It’s a lot more to take care of,” Thompson said with a laugh, “but it’s a very good thing. It’s a big thing for this community.”