As of Friday, April 1, Oregon based Life Flight Network will take over Northwest MedStar, the air ambulance currently serving both Missoula hospitals.

Chief Customer Officer at Life Flight Network in Oregon, Justin Dillingham, said all employees at MedStar have been offered positions with the new provider.

"All of the flight crew members in Missoula have accepted positions with Life Flight Network, and the brand will change from Northwest MedStar to Life Flight Network beginning April 1," Dillingham said. "I think you'll see a greater collaboration between the two programs. Life Flight has a helicopter and plane in Butte, as well, and so those resources will be able to back each other up if one in busy. There's an EC-135 helicopter and a King-Air fixed wing based at the Missoula airport."

Life Flight provided air ambulance service to Missoula until January 1, 2014, when both hospitals switched to Northwest MedStar, at that time wholly owned by Providence Health and Services.

Dillingham addressed the recent controversies surrounding the high cost of air ambulance services, and a possible solution to the consumer.

"We are in network with a couple of insurance providers in Montana, which is very beneficial to patients if they're flown, and very exciting for us as we begin a membership drive in the Missoula market in early April. If you go to Lifeflight dot org, you can sign up on line or call our membership office. For $60 per year it covers an entire family. Essentially, if we transport you, there's no out-of-pocket expense."

Though 25 percent of Life Flight Network is owned by Providence Health and Services, who also operate St. Patrick Hospital, Dillingham said the air ambulance service has an excellent relationship with both hospitals in Missoula, St. Patrick and Community Medical Center.

Dillingham said there are plans by Life Flight Network to expand the air ambulance base of operations at the Missoula County International Airport in the near future.