By BRYCE MARTIN | Pioneer Editor | email@example.com
Emergency medical air transport company Spirit Lifeline closed its operations in North Dakota earlier this year shortly after Bowman County commissioners purchased subscriptions to its service for all county residents.
But another air transport company is now on the county’s radar: Valley Med Flight.
Jacob Narloch, business development specialist with Valley Med Flight, and Cori Randall, Valley Med Flight manager in Dickinson, discussed during the county’s regular meeting Nov. 17 the possibility of cementing a similar agreement for subscriptions to their air ambulance service.
If the commissioners vote to approve an agreement to purchase such subscriptions, at a lower cost than what Spirit Lifeline offered, no Bowman County resident would have to pay an out-of-pocket expense if they were airlifted to a hospital outside of the county.
That applies to residents utilizing health care services outside of Bowman, as well.
Valley Med Flight, owned by Air Medical Resource Group (AMRG), started operations in the western part of the state Sept. 1 and has been operational in North Dakota for four years since it was established in Grand Forks.
Valley Med Flight has since signed on to service residents in Golden Valley and Billings counties. They are on the agenda to visit with the Stark County Board of Commissioners next month.
Sanford Health announced just after Spirit Lifeline ended its service that they would begin servicing the western part of the state, but their aircrafts come out of Bismarck.
Valley Med Flight differs from Spirit Lifeline when it comes to its service, offering both helicopter and fixed-engine flights out of the area. Spirit Lifeline’s plane was stationed in Nebraska, while Valley Med Flight has a plane on standby in Williston or Sidney, Mont.
The plane can travel from Sidney to Dickinson within 20 to 30 minutes, according to Randall. The helicopter is stationed in Dickinson for service in western North Dakota.
Randall said that Valley Med Flight is not in competition with local ambulance services and that they are there merely to assist.
So far, Valley Med Flight has not made any flights out of Bowman.
“Our planes are really fast,” she said. “That’s a nice backup that we have – if the weather is not good and the helicopter can’t go up, the airplane can.”
Subscriptions would cost $4.12 per person for the first year of service. At roughly 3,400 residents within the county, Valley Med Flight quoted the county at a total fee of around $14,000. For the second year of service, the per-person fee increases by $1.
The county would not have to be locked into any contract, so if costs increase drastically, the county could back out at any time, Commissioner Lynn Brackel noted.
Subscriptions to Spirit Lifeline would have cost the county $17,426 each year.
The county paid that amount just before Spirit Lifeline ended its services in the state, but that money was since refunded.
The commissioners did not make a formal decision on purchasing subscriptions from Valley Med Flight, but each commissioner said they felt confident with the company’s proposal. Commissioners said they would welcome the representatives back at another time after Valley Med Flight speaks with Southwest Healthcare Services and Bowman Ambulance.
“We were burnt pretty bad – it put out a false image to our people in the county,” Brackel said of its dealings with Spirit Lifeline.