New company offering medical air transport in the area

It takes about 27 minutes to fly a patient from Lovell to Billings by medical helicopter. On average, North Big Horn Hospital transfers about five or six patients a month by air to Billings by fixed wing or helicopter combined air medical services. For many of those patients, it’s a matter of life or death.

Guardian Flight services is now offering air medical services previously offered through the REACH Air Medical helicopter base in Cody. REACH began transitioning to Guardian Flight earlier  this month. Patients who have purchased AirMedCare Network membership through REACH need not worry because Guardian is also a member of the network and will serve their needs under the same terms.

EMS Director/paramedic Scott Murphey (right) chats with Guardian Flight’s Cody base manager Annie Kenefick (left) last week during a helicopter visit to North Big Horn Hospital.
Patti Carpenter photo

The base of operation for the service is relocating from Cody to Powell, in order to be more centrally located to serve the Big Horn Basin. The more central location will also help the company maintain excellent response time to hospitals in the area for critical air medical transportation.

Guardian Flight will maintain a number of local pilots and staff in order to ensure a smooth and seamless transition. The base will be managed locally by Guardian Flight’s Program Director and Medical Department Chief, both of whom are from Wyoming, live in Wyoming and have managed air medical operations in the state for many years.

Guardian Flight and REACH are working in tandem throughout the planning process and transition period.

The transition will also allow for citizens of Lovell and the other communities in Park and Big Horn Counties to gain access to Guardian Flight’s extensive footprint and resources already established in Wyoming.

The company currently operates bases in Gillette, Worland, Riverton and Lander. These resources will be available to all current members of the AirMedCare Network membership program.  All current REACH members will continue to enjoy access to the entire AirMedCare Network of bases, which currently includes more than 320 locations.

Members of AirMedCare Network are covered for any amounts considered as fully prepaid by their insurance provider.  As a part of their membership, those who are transported by AirMedCare Network do not receive a bill for flights deemed medically necessary, when transported to the closest appropriate facility. Patient condition, not membership status, is the determining factor of whether a patient meets medical necessity for air medical transportation.

“We would like to thank REACH for their service the past couple of years and for working hard to establish a successful base,” said Matt Strauss, Guardian Flight Program Director.  “We hope to continue that service, provide a wide range of backup resources from our current network, and make any necessary improvements to better serve the area.”

By Patti Carpenter