By Pete Stock
To all concern citizens of southwestern Montana, state government is being influenced to do away with an air ambulance service that is currently based out of Helena and Bozeman.
About five years ago, St. Vincent Hospital in Billings determined that Gallatin Valley residents did not warrant their own air ambulance. So, at the cost of approximately $1 million, Summit Air Ambulance based an air ambulance, and later fixed-wing service, at Bozeman and Helena airports. Later, Reach Air Medical, with bases in 32 states, purchased Summit Air. All of their flight and air medical staff are highly skilled and among the best in the business. I have had the pleasure of working with these professionals, when patient conditions require that they be flown to the appropriate trauma center.
The state subcommittee is being told by hospital-based air ambulance services in Billings, Helena and Great Falls, that we in the greater Gallatin Valley do not warrant current air ambulance service. If lawmakers and the state auditor agree, you may have to wait anywhere from 60-90 minutes for this vital service to fly you to receive proper, advanced medical care, whereas Reach Air Medical is only seven minutes from Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.
The state of Montana has mandated protocols for when a patient is to be flown for care. If we do not have local air ambulance service, I guess those protocols will be ignored. Yes, as with all medical services, air ambulance is a necessity for our rural and local residents. Insurance companies do not provide proper levels of reimbursement. Our Montana lawmakers need to convince them to do so. Please, flood your state and local representatives with requests, that Reach Air Medical continues to operate in the greater Helena and Gallatin areas of our state.