Hospitals negotiate air ambulance service
St. Lukes: effect on valley remains to be seen
"Having a second medical helicopter service provider available to
serve south central Idaho would result in a enhanced level of availability to respond to
emergencies in the Wood River Valley."
News release from St. Lukes Regional Medical Center
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
In a June 16 statement, St. Lukes Boise headquarters announced that
it is pursuing a partnership with the Twin Falls-based Magic Valley Regional Medical
Center to operate an air ambulance program in the Magic Valley.
A similar statement by the Twin Falls hospital says that decision
"paves the way" for the formation of a partnership with the Wood River Valley
branch of St. Lukes to operate the medical air service.
Magic Valley communications manager Monie Smith, during a Monday telephone
call, said those two statements are "not necessarily mutually exclusive."
Meanwhile, St. Lukes says its Wood River Valley representatives
havent had any discussion with Magic Valley on the matter.
If anything is certain in the recent negotiations among St. Lukes,
Magic Valley and Access Airthe company that would provide the air ambulance service
under the arrangementit is that the entities involved have contradicted each other.
At the same time, they say medical air transportation in the Wood River Valley will remain
unaffected, or will possibly benefit from the planned changes.
During a Monday call, St. Lukes Wood River Valley Medical Center CEO
Jon Moses said he was reluctant to discuss the negotiations because, he said, "this
is not a matter Ive given any of my time to."
Speaking generally about the valleys existing air ambulance service,
Moses said the Boise-based St. Alphonsus Hospitals Life Flight program has provided
the majority of service with about 125 round-trip flights from Boise and Twin Falls each
Alternatively, Access Air president Jim Hutchens said during a Monday call
that his company has only flown into the valley a couple of times.
In a statement released yesterday, St. Lukes Regional Medical Center
in Boise said the impact on the Wood River Valley of St. Lukes and the Magic Valley
hospital contracting with Access Air "remains to be seen."
"However," the statement continues, "having a second
medical helicopter service provider available to serve south central Idaho would result in
a enhanced level of availability to respond to emergencies in the Wood River Valley."
Currently, the Wood River Valley has no exclusive service contract with
any air ambulance provider, Moses said. Rather, the local emergency medical personnel call
whichever service is available and best suited for each emergency situation.
Following the recent announcements, St. Alphonsus spokesman David Ensunsa
said in a statement that the hospital intends to continue operating the Life Flight
service in the Magic Valley area, with a helicopter possibly stationed around the clock in
That could mean Life Flight service that responds faster to the Wood River
Valley than it has in the past, Ensunsa said.
Both St. Alphonsus and St. Lukes say the potential partnership would
not affect the 2,500 people in the Wood River Valley who have memberships with Life
For an annual fee, those memberships pay for the difference between the
cost of a Life Flight trip and the amount insurance companies pay.
Access Air says it may also sell memberships for its service.
St. Lukes says that either helicopter service will take patients to
the most suitable hospital for treatment, regardless of affiliations.
It is "highly unlikely" that St. Lukes would work out an
exclusive arrangement with a helicopter service that would prevent other services from
operating in an area, St. Lukes says.
However, "absolutely no discussions have been held on this
topic," the St. Lukes release says.