In Billings, medical helicopters are a common sight, but that isn't the case in more rural areas. In fact, no hospital in Wyoming owns its own helicopter, but coming this spring, that will change.
Cody is known as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park and all of its amazing natural wonders, but it's now going to be home to the first hospital-owned medical helicopter in Wyoming.
For a rural area like northern Wyoming, it's something that Chief Clinical Officer at Cody Regional Health Keith Ungrund said will be very beneficial.
“From Cody, we fly somewhere around 10 patients out a month," Ungrund said in an interview by video conference. "I’m just estimating there, but then of course there are several other hospitals in the region that have the same needs."
In the past, Cody Regional Health and other hospitals in the area have relied on private for-profit services or hospitals in Billings when a patient needs to be life-flighted, but thanks to a recent partnership between Cody Regional Health and St. Vincent Healthcare has helped the Wyoming hospital plan for its own helicopter.
“We looked hard at that and asked SCL (the parent company of St. Vincent) to be a part of those conversations, and they were interested in looking at a service in this basin," Ungrund said.
The service will provide the hospital with its own life flight scenarios, which means medical pilots will no longer need to fly from Billings to pick up the patient in need. It's going to save a lot of time in the process, but most importantly, it will help save lives.
"Sometimes if they're really critical, flight's a better option, again for the time of transport," Ungrund said.
Just this month, two college wrestlers were involved in a grizzly bear attack in Northern Wyoming. One of the victims was immediately flown to Billings, while the other had to first be driven to Cody. It's instances like these that EMS Director Phillip Franklin is hoping will be handled even more efficiently in the future.
“If we would have had this resource available," Franklin said, "the patient would have not had to come to Cody. They could’ve flown straight to Billings."
It's a new "high-flying" addition to the hospital that will ultimately save lives.
“We’re hopefully launching in the spring of 2023 as our goal, so we've got a lot of work ahead of us," Ungrund said. "But we’re excited to see this come together."