A private helicopter company providing emergency medical services to Oklahoma patients, announced the closure of four Oklahoma bases.
Air Methods confirmed Monday it will no longer maintain Tulsa Life Flight 1 in Keefeton, Tulsa Life Flight 3 in Riverside, Medi-Flight of Oklahoma 1 in Chickasha and Medi-Flight of Oklahoma 2 in Seminole.
AirKids1 in Oklahoma City will continue to serve the Chickasha/Grady County area for neonatal trips.
Tulsa Life Flight 5 aircraft in McAlester will now provide coverage for the Keefeton region. Tulsa Life Flight 2 in Pryor will provide IFT NICU flights to the Riverside region and Tulsa Life Flight 5 in McAlester will cover the Seminole region.
The announcement came as a shock to employees at Grady Memorial Hospital in Chickasha. Air Methods has provided support to the hospital since December 2018.
"In a critical situation, it's important to have those guys here to take somebody up," said Dr. Deacon Vice, Emergency Department Medical Director at Grady Memorial Hospital. "It's a big hit for the community and surrounding communities that we take care of."
Other options are available for the hospital such as Air Evac, however, its bases are located much further away.
"The most urgent thing I can think of is if someone comes in with a heart attack that you are trying to get transferred to a facility that has a capability to fix that heart attack," said Vice. "That will slow those times down, there is no doubt."
In a statement to News 9, Air Methods cited nearly 75% of its transports are Medicaid, Medicare, or uninsured, leaving the company with 30% of costs reimbursed.
The dispatch center will not experience any interruption in service. The same dispatch number will be used Medi-Flight at 800-522-0212, and Tulsa Life Flight at 800-806-1891 will continue to be used for emergency air medical services request. The dispatch center will coordinate the request.
Meanwhile, a helipad sits empty, and medical staff hopes a replacement comes sooner rather than later.
"Our EMS crews around here run ragged anyways, with transfers and with things we cannot handle at the hospital," said Vice. "Having an air ambulance here, that is one less transfer that those guys have to take."
Approximately 50 employees are affected by the closure of bases. Air Methods says it’s working with those employees to find other employment within the company.