Why is air transport necessary?
Air transport is necessary to expedite the care and treatment of any patient with a critical or potentially critical illness or injury. Many patients transported by air are initially stabilized in community hospitals but need care that the outlying facility cannot provide. Due to the rural nature of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, a ground transfer may take 2-4 hours, thus delaying diagnosis and treatment. We are also able to access wilderness areas for backcountry rescues, which may take hours or days to get out by conventional means of hiking, biking, horseback or snowmobile.
What is the cost of air transport?
There is a base fee plus charges for loaded patient miles. Flight related charges are generally well covered by insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid. Payment is based on flight necessity and the rural nature of our area.
If you are uninsured, customer service representatives are available to help you identify other funding options that you may qualify for. No patient will be authorized or denied transport based on ability to pay.
Most of all, if you or your loved one is in need of air transport, the question of money will be better managed when the stress of the illness is not so pressing. Often the time saved in transport will make a big difference in the outcome.
Judgments of whether to fly or not should be based on need, weather and availability of an aircraft, not cost.
For all billing questions please call (800) 499-9495.
Can I refuse to fly?
If you are of sound mind, and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as an adult you can refuse any treatment. If there is concern for your mental status due to injury or other influences, you may be flown by implied consent, which means that you are not of the mind to make those decisions.
Can a family member fly with me?
That will depend on weight and balance. Fuel is the biggest factor. If you want a family member to accompany you, let the staff at the referring agency know as soon as possible. The guest must give a weight and show that they can remain calm. The crew must be able to focus on care of the patient.
Do I have to be transported to Idaho Falls?
No. Our policy is to transport to the closest "appropriate" facility. If you prefer to fly to a facility that is further away, we can do that provided the extra time will not adversely affect your outcome. Your insurance may not be willing to pay for the extra mileage and you may be responsible for the difference.
Who decides when air transport is necessary?
There are several avenues in which we may be dispatched. We may be called by a physician at a smaller hospital who has evaluated you or your loved one and consulted with a physician in the emergency department or a specialist. An ambulance or QRU who responds to the scene of an accident or illness and recognizes the potential need for advanced life support and rapid transport may call us. We may be called by Law Enforcement, Park Officials or numerous other agencies which are trained in helicopter utilization, safety and landing zone set-up. We often will transport patients that appear to be stable, however, the mechanism of injury involved tells us that there is a potential for serious injury that is not yet diagnosed. The outlying personnel are educated on not only treating the known injuries but when to recognize potential injuries and illness. We all work together to deliver the best care for all those involved.
Is it safe to fly?
There are inherent risks to all flying; however, safety is our primary concern. The medical flight crew undergoes semi-annual aircraft safety training. Annual landing zone and safety classes are provided to all outlying ground agencies within our service area. All flights are critiqued for any safety issues or concerns and we have a dedicated safety committee that meets regularly. Three full-time factory trained mechanics are meticulous about aircraft maintenance and routine checks. Our pilots are very experienced and highly skilled in mountain flying. Weather minimums are strictly adhered to as mandated by the FAA. Our helicopter operates by visual flight rules, however, as an additional safety net, our pilots maintain currency with instrument flying and our helicopter is instrument equipped.
What are your flight times?
Here are some average flight times to EIRMC. The actual flight times may vary depending on winds and exact location.
- Afton, WY - 29 minutes
- Arco - 26 minutes
- Blackfoot - 10 minutes
- Driggs - 19 minutes
- Dubois, ID - 19 minutes
- Island Park - 25 minutes
- Jackson, WY - 24 minutes
- Lake Clinic, WY - 42 minutes
- Salmon - 60 minutes
- Swan Valley - 15 minutes
- West Yellowstone, MT - 36 minutes