Billings Clinic, Montana’s largest health care system serving Montana, Wyoming and the western Dakotas, has commenced service with a new air ambulance helicopter in Bozeman. This is an expansion of the Billings-based fixed wing MedFlight Air Ambulance service, which uses King Air 200s, and provides an extension of critical lifesaving transportation throughout the region.
“Having this service in Bozeman saves critical time for patients who need emergency medical transport to a higher level of care,” says Scott Ellner, Billings Clinic CEO. “This brings opportunities for quick access of care for critically ill and injured patients and gets them to where they need to be for rapid treatment. It will save lives.”
The new air ambulance service offers patients a hospital-affiliated alternative that brings affordability and connects them to the resources and expertise of the region's largest health system. Billings Clinic's current MedFlight service includes two fixed-wing aircraft based in Billings, which can transport patients across Montana, Wyoming and throughout the region. The expanded helicopter service is a partnership with Metro Aviation, which will help to hire some staff such as pilots and mechanics, provide the helicopter and maintain flight and aircraft management.
“This will effectively be a mobile emergency department and critical care unit,” Ellner adds. “We are staffing the air ambulance with highly trained medical staff who are Billings Clinic employees and experts in emergency medicine.”
Serving as a mobile, quick-response emergency department and critical care unit, the air ambulance is staffed with nearly 20 people, including paramedics, nurses and pilots. It is managed locally by Billings Clinic physicians and has access to numerous specialists within the health system. MedFlight staff have extensive training centred on the intensive care and emergency and trauma skills practiced at Billings Clinic.
The Bozeman-based service will enable Billings Clinic to transport patients to facilities with the level of care they need. With the ability to cover a roughly 150-mile radius around the Bozeman area without a refuelling stop, it will be able to reach major medical facilities and critical access hospitals throughout southern, central and eastern Montana.
“We know that a local, hospital-affiliated air ambulance brings much greater value to patients and communities,” states Ted Galbraith, Billings Clinic MedFlight operations manager. “Providing patients with the emergency services they need, where and when they need them, means better care for more people and a lower cost. The entire Billings Clinic MedFlight team is excited to be a part of Bozeman and the surrounding area, and we look forward to serving both the community and region over the years to come.”
Billings Clinic is Montana's busiest trauma center, seeing about 1,000 trauma patients a year, and MedFlight already conducts about 700 flights a year throughout the region with its fixed-wing aircraft.
MedFlight's new twin-engine EC145 helicopter operates out of Bozeman Yellowstone International airport and is staffed 24/7 with at least two critical care providers. It will be able to respond to all transport requests, including patient transfers between facilities and emergency scenes. To house the service, Billings Clinic is building a hangar and launch area at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), which will be completed later this year.
Until the hangar at the airport is complete, the Central Valley Fire District in Belgrade has agreed to allow the on-duty members of the air ambulance team to use its facilities as its base of operations. This gives the crew and support staff a dedicated space to work and rest when they're not in the air, and allows both teams to train together.
“Central Valley Fire District is pleased to be working with Billings Clinic as it gets its medical flight program off the ground,” comments CVFD chief Ron Lindroth. “Having flight crews based with fire crews in our award-winning fire station allows crews to cross train and develop close working relationships. Both agencies strive to provide excellence in customer care, so it's a great partnership that makes sense on many levels. We look forward to continued collaboration with MedFlight to develop new and innovative ways to save lives by merging the best of fire/rescue skills with those of an advanced medical flight team.”
Construction is also underway on Billings Clinic Bozeman's new 140,000 sq ft Destination Ambulatory Center in Bozeman. Billings Clinic's status as a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network means that more Montanans also have access to resources.