St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center have announced an agreement with Northwest MedStar to provide critical care transport services, formerly provided by the Life Flight Air Ambulance program. 

President and CEO of Providence St. Patrick Hospital Jeff Fee said on Monday, December 30, that Northwest MedStar will soon be wholly owned by St. Patrick Hospital's parent company, Providence Health and Services.

"We made the decision after months of careful consideration to partner up with an organization we already have a relationship with called Northwest MedStar out of Spokane, Washington," Fee said. "It's a division of INHS, which as of January 1, 2014, will be wholly owned by Providence. MedStar has a great reputation for providing high quality and very safe air and ground transportation, and we felt that this was a great partnership opportunity for us."

Fee said starting in April of 2014, the iconic green and yellow helicopter that can be seen taking off and landing from the roof of St. Patrick Hospital, will be replaced with a helicopter with a more neutral color scheme that will be based at the Missoula County Airport.

"Most contemporary airlift operators actually operate out of airport bases," Fee said. "Especially in this part of the country, it's easier to roll a helicopter in and out of a hangar, than to have to wrap up the rotors. So, we'll probably see the actual physical location of the base move from St. Pat's to the airport proper, and the actual color scheme, because it is a jointly sponsored program with St. Pat's and Community, the aircraft will take on a more neutral color combination."

Right now, Life Flight has 16 full-time employees, and Fee said they are all welcome to apply with MedStar.

"As far as I'm concerned, we have the best staff from an air transport perspective in the state and the region," Fee said. "We hope in the process of transition, that we will retain all, or certainly a majority of the staff. Now, because of the increased competition in the area, staff are free to look at other opportunities with other transport companies in western Montana, but it is certainly our sincere hope that we can keep the staff intact."

Fee said of all the air transport vendors that the hospital considered, that Northwest MedStar was the best for the hospital and the patients.

"Of all the vendors that we evaluated, we picked one that was the closest fit to our mission, vision and values," Fee said. "Also, first and foremost we wanted to make sure more than anything, that nothing was compromised relative to the safety track record of our program, as well as to the excellent clinical quality that the actual team provides, as well."

President and CEO of Providence St. Patrick Hospital Jeff Fee