Air Methods, one of the country’s largest air ambulance fleets, began operating as Air Life in La Grande in October 2013 as competition with Life Flight Network. The Colorado-based company closed its air ambulance bases in La Grande and Ontario Friday.
Air Life reciprocity deal still in place with Life Flight
Air Life, the company that abruptly closed its air ambulance bases in La Grande and Ontario Friday, is not expounding on a reason for the sudden base closures.
The bases employed 24 people.
“We do not consider base closures to be a trivial matter and come to this conclusion solely as a business decision,” said Tracey Budz, spokesperson for parent company Air Methods. “We’re making every effort to work closely with the 24 affected employees to help them transfer or relocate to other Air Methods bases where there are open positions currently posted.”
Air Methods, one of the country’s largest air ambulance fleets, began operating as Air Life in La Grande in October 2013 as competition with Life Flight Network. The move followed a legal battle between the two companies. Air Methods previously provided aircraft and some staffing for Life Flight, but that relationship ended July 31, 2013. Air Methods then announced it would open its own base in La Grande.
Upon launching its service, Air Life officials requested that Union County commissioners implement a rotating system of 911 calls for emergency ambulance service to be split between Air Life and Life Flight.
“Our goal was to provide additional resources and services to these areas of Oregon, ensuring a consistent availability of aircraft, along with increased county revenue through jobs and taxes,” Budz said. “Having been a longtime provider of air medical transport helicopters in these areas, we had hoped that we would be able to meld into a rotational system and work together with local hospitals and EMS, but that was not the case.”
County commissioners held a hearing on establishing a rotational system in October, but had not made a final
“Essentially, we referred it to legal counsel,” said J.B. Brock, Union County emergency manager. “We were in the process of reviewing our options.”
Brock said the issue was slated to be discussed this month at a Union County Ambulance Advisory Committee
“That was going to be the primary topic of discussion,” Brock said.
Though the rotational system was not put into place, Brock said he knows that Air Life did some runs in the three months it was operating locally.
“There’s not a lot of traffic. I think that’s part of the challenge,” he said.
At the October hearing on the issue, officials said there are an average of about three emergency air ambulance calls each month.
Air Life offers a membership plan called Omni Advantage. Those who signed up and paid for the insurance will be able to use the plan with Life Flight, which continues to operate its air ambulance base out of the Union County Airport.
“The reciprocity agreement with Life Flight Network’s membership program presently remains in place despite the base closures, so Omni Advantage members would continue to reap the benefits of the program if they are transported by Life Flight Network,” Budz said.