Airborne ambulance services raising questions

Mar 30, 2012 By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

A recent influx of air ambulance services in Fremont County is creating confusion about which company emergency personnel should call when a patient needs services.

Casper-based Wyoming Life Flight and Air Idaho Ambulance Service of Idaho Falls, Idaho, have been offering their services in the area for years.

Classic Lifeguard Aeromedical Services, based out of Page, Ariz., started operations at Riverton Regional Airport on March 8, and another air ambulance provider is anticipated to start in the county soon.

"We don't want to get into the business of saying which service we want to call," said Fremont County ambulance director Lauri Wempen to commissioners March 20.

Wempen is organizing a meeting with the air ambulance providers to develop a resolution on the matter.

One issue is the many county residents who subscribe to a specific air ambulance company.

"A lot of our community residents have paid for subscriptions to Wyoming Life Flight," Wempen said.

Commissioner Travis Becker said Classic Lifeguard Aeromedical Services would honor the subscription, but Wempen said that is only for the first year.

"A lot of our guys have bought the five-year plan with Wyoming Life Flight," Wempen said.

Patient info

Commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson asked if Wempen's staff could request patient information to determine which company to call.

The problem, Wempen said, is that air and ground ambulances often dispatch at the same time without any knowledge of patient identity.

Also, the list of customers signed up for Wyoming Life Flight may not be available to authorities, Wempen said.

"The subscription list might be considered confidential," she said.

She asked commissioners what her agency should do with all of the choices available for service.

"I think the dispatch center and myself and the fire department would like to get direction," she said.

Rotation basis

Becker suggested a system similar to how authorities call tow trucks.

"It should be on a rotating basis like the wrecker is," he said.

Hickerson suggested a meeting "to work out a pre-incident protocol so we know what's going to happen."

He recommended resolving the situation soon.

"That is going to be an issue," he said. "If we have another entity in addition to the three now, that's going to be more complication."

"We cannot be making those decisions on the scene," Hickerson said. "We have to have a protocol in place."

Wempen volunteered to spearhead the meeting.

"I would be happy to facilitate getting all the players to the table," she said.

The issue is unusual for Fremont County.

"This is the first time in 20 years we have had people beating at the door to be here," Wempen said.

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