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Gunnison Valley Health buys into CareFlight helicopter partnership

Deal gives GVH and patients more control

By Mark Reaman

Gunnison Valley Health is now part owner in a helicopter ambulance service. GVH has joined other Western Slope hospitals and bought into a new joint venture with CareFlight that will help provide lifesaving emergency helicopter services to the Gunnison Valley community.

The announcement was made last week and, according to GVH CEO Rob Santilli, GVH has a 4 percent ownership stake in the company. GVH paid $102,720 to buy into the service as an owner. “As a joint owner, we now have the opportunity for input into the policies [and] structure and [can] attend board meetings,” he explained. “The main reason is we now have a sustainable air ambulance program servicing the Gunnison community.”

Santilli said the main goal of the partnership with CareFlight is to provide local patients in emergency situations the highest quality critical care in the safest manner possible. “CareFlight is a high quality and reputable air ambulance service staffed with highly trained medical professionals who bring a level of expertise in critical care you would expect in any hospital,” said Santilli.

GVH’s Emergency Department director Elizabeth Rademacher said the service is essential for those patients who need to be transported quickly to specialized hospitals for emergency care. “On average, 80 patients each year utilize air ambulance services in the valley,” said Rademacher. “To transport our patients quickly in lifesaving situations to neighboring hospitals is a tremendous advantage to our community.”

CareFlight is an air medical transport service operated by St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction. It is the primary emergency air transport service for Gunnison County, providing a 24-hour-a-day service with hospital-trained personnel who have a minimum of four years critical care experience and follow national standards of accreditation. As a non-profit organization, CareFlight does not charge patients more than what their insurance will cover.

“Here is the great news,” said Santilli. “We have worked out an arrangement where our patients will not have any out-of-pocket payments, as the cost for an air ambulance can often be very expensive.

“Investing in CareFlight guarantees our insured patients will not receive extra billing for the service and [for] those who are uninsured, we work with them so they will not be left with a large financial burden. This enables us to continue to provide the highest quality critical care at the least cost possible to our patients,” he said. “Partnering with CareFlight not only strengthens our focus on providing quality patient care, it ensures there will be a cost effective and sustainable air ambulance service available to our community in the future.”

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