Med Center Joins Regional Hospitals in Emergency Flight Transport Group 

The Telluride Medical Center and its governing body, the Telluride Hospital District, have joined other western slope hospitals and medical centers in an ownership partnership with CareFlight of the Rockies, a helicopter and fixed-wing medical emergency flight transport service based in Grand Junction. 

With one percent ownership, the Telluride Medical Center, joins Grand River Hospital District-Rifle, Gunnison Valley Health, Memorial Regional Health-Craig, Montrose Memorial Hospital, Pioneer Medical Center-Meeker and St. Mary’s Medical Center-Grand Junction. 

CareFlight first began its regional emergency transport services 40 years ago. Their mission, to provide the highest level of care by the safest mode of transportation with the least financial impact to patients, led them to launch “CareFlight of the Rockies,” according to Kathy Shoemaker, RN, Chief Flight Nurse. 

The program, which launched in January, include input into the program by two other councils with member representation from each of the member hospitals, an operational council and a physician advisory council led by our physician adviser, Dr. Paul Padyk, MD. 

“The goal of each of these councils is to provide an avenue for feedback to better the service and the care provided, and to meet the needs of our patients and partner facilities,” said Shoemaker. 

In April, Dr. Bill Hall of the Telluride Medical Center’s emergency team joined on as the physician representative on the advisory group. 

Another primary goal, according to Shoemaker “is to provide this service at the lowest possible expense to the patient. We accomplish this by implementing a non-balance-billing model which is enabled through our non-profit structure and existing insurance contracts.”

CareFlight of the Rockies contracts with Air Methods Corporation for two Eurocopter A-Stars based in Rifle and Montrose, and two Beechcraft King Air 200s, one with two patient capability based in Grand Junction, and one at our new base in Craig. 

The Telluride Medical Center bought in as a one percent owner, a commitment made by the Telluride Medical Center Foundation.

John Gardner, CEO of the Telluride Medical Center said this program should decrease the use of for-profit air transport services. 

“We’ve all heard of horror stories of outrageous bills for emergency flight services, with this non-profit service, we can expect significantly less cost compared to flight services provided by organizations not associated with hospitals,” said Gardner. 

The hospital based nature of CareFlight of the Rockies allows emergency medicine physicians, cardiologists, pulmonologists, trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, cardiovascular surgeons, neurologists, perinatologists, neonatologists, obstetricians, and other specialty physicians to participate in training the CareFlight team to offer exceptional care, that according to Dr. Hall, is especially critical in rural areas. 

Dr. Hall said, “The skill level of these nationally accredited flight nurses and paramedics is second to none and gives our physicians great confidence that our patients are receiving the best care possible during these critical care transports.”