Bozeman to receive air ambulance service

Aerial view of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport and the future location of the new Billings Clinic helicopter support facility

BILLINGS, Mont. – Billings Clinic announced via press release that it will establish a new helicopter air ambulance service in Bozeman.

This is an expansion of its Billings-based fixed wing MedFlight Air Ambulance service and provides an extension of critical lifesaving transportation consistent with Billings Clinic’s mission.

“We're basing our new helicopter service in Bozeman to save critical time – lifesaving, in some cases – for patients who need emergency medical transport to a higher level of care” Scott Ellner, DO, Billings Clinic CEO said. “By staging the helicopter in Bozeman, we will shorten transportation time to get patients in our region where they need to be for treatment.”

Billings Clinic said the new helicopter air ambulance service will offer patients a hospital-affiliated alternative at greater value to connect them to the resources and expertise of the largest health system in the region. 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. We are staffing the air ambulance with highly trained medical staff who are Billings Clinic employees and experts in emergency medicine,” Dr. Ellner added.

Clinical training for MedFlight staff is centered on intensive care and emergency and trauma skills practiced at Billings Clinic.

Billings Clinic said nearly 20 people will make up the staff and crew of this service, including paramedics, nurses and pilots. It will be managed locally by Billings Clinic physicians and will have access to numerous specialists within the health system.

The Bozeman-based service will enable Billings Clinic to transport patients to a more highly skilled facility than is currently possible. With the ability to cover a roughly 150-mile radius around the Bozeman area without a refueling stop, it will be able to reach major medical facilities and critical access hospitals throughout southern and central Montana.

“We will be able to offer more patients the care they need, where they need it, and this helps to keep care local. This expanded service means better care for more patients and a lower cost. It means more efficient response time and better, more appropriate care” Sam Sillitti, MD, Billings Clinic Chief of Bozeman, said. “We are absolutely thrilled about the growth of this service and what it means for both the Bozeman community and the surrounding area.”

Billings Clinic is Montana’s busiest trauma center and construction is underway on its new 135,000 square foot 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 from one of the world's leading health care systems.

“Montana and Bozeman are growing, and our ability to serve patients with the lifesaving care they need and expect is growing along with that. Our MedFlight program already makes about 700 flights a year and we know that there’s more need in the region for these critical services,” Michael Englehart, MD, Billings Clinic Trauma Medical Director, said. “A careful review of the population growth and trauma volumes shows that the addition of this helicopter service in Bozeman makes sense."

To house the service, Billings Clinic said they will build a hangar and launch area at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN). Service is expected to begin in the summer of 2021.

"We're thrilled to have this new Billings Clinic facility coming to our airport and we look forward to the benefits it provides to our community,” Brian Sprenger, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport Director, said.

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