Columbus is about to be the new base of air ambulance services in Platte County and the surrounding area.
By mid-January, a new air ambulance base will be located at the Columbus Community Hospital (CCH). Previously, the base was located in Fremont.
The air ambulance services out of Columbus will be provided by LifeNet, a subsidiary of Air Methods. Air Methods, a national company, coordinates air ambulance services for communities throughout Nebraska.
The communities served by the Columbus base will include Columbus, Fremont, Albion, Central City, Schuyler, David City and Aurora.
An air ambulance service transports patients to and between hospitals. Typically, an air ambulance is used when there is severe or life-threatening trauma that must be treated quickly or requires a high level of care.
Over the last year, LifeNet has also provided interfacility transportation for COVID-19 patients. LifeNet also helps transport type O blood and plasma.
According to a Monday press release from Air Methods, the Columbus base "will result in quicker response times for emergent and trauma situations" in the surrounding area.
Air Methods Nebraska Account Executive Kevin Hallam said the company is in-network with over 50 different insurance companies.
"Our average out-of-pocket cost is less than $200 in the state of Nebraska," Hallam said.
CCH Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer Dorothy Bybee said CCH has changed its air ambulance preferred provider to LifeNet but will continue a relationship with previous preferred provider Apollo MedFlight LLC.
Bybee said the change in preferred provider, which began in the fall, was the reason for moving the air ambulance base from Fremont.
"Since Air Methods is the preferred provider, it was necessary that a helicopter be available here in Columbus," Bybee said in a Monday email to The Telegram.
However, Emergency Department Director and Emergency Manager Sue Deyke said the preferred provider agreement doesn't preclude working with Apollo MedFlight going forward. If Apollo MedFlight is the more available option, they will respond to calls. Working with both companies ensures the best service to the community, Deyke said.
Hallam said Fremont will continue to be served by aircraft based in Columbus and Omaha and will have several different options throughout Nebraska for air medical transport.
Bybee said CCH will not need to make any significant changes or investments to accommodate the LifeNet helicopter.
"CCH does not have to provide any infrastructure except for some changes in the helicopter pad," Bybee said in the Monday email.
Hallam said the air ambulance team will move from Fremont to Columbus along with the air base. As the air base leaves Fremont, LifeNet will open a packaging base there to help transfer air ambulance patients to Omaha.
"It'll be a completely seamless transition," Hallam said. "We'll be sitting ready to go sitting on the pad at (CCH) and then Fremont's packaging base will be open exactly that same day."
Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at email@example.com.