Less than two months after learning that a second helicopter ambulance service was entering the Central Oregon market, St. Charles has announced that it is getting out of the life flight business entirely.
The regional hospital announced Monday that it is closing its AirLink helicopter service and selling the business assets to a Texas-based firm that specializes in medical evacuations.
“This was a difficult decision to make,” said St. Charles Bend CEO Bob Gomes, in a press release Monday. “We have the best critical care team in the region but we feel this is the right thing to do for Central Oregon.”
According to Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Goodman the transaction should be complete by June 15. In the meantime, patients shouldn’t see a disruption in services. The new operator, Med Trans Corp. will take over the AirLink brand and intends to honor the memberships purchased by current AirLink members.
As part of the move, St. Charles will lay off 27 AirLink employees, including 10 registered nurses and 12 respiratory therapists. In Monday's press release, Goodman wrote that the hospital will "make every effort" to find jobs for the displaced workers at St. Charles.
Read the full release here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2012
St. Charles closes AirLink; Metro Aviation, Inc. and Med-Trans Corporation to start new air ambulance operations
Bend, Ore. – A combination of uncontrollable business dynamics has prompted St. Charles Health System to close AirLink Critical Care Transport and sell its air medical assets.
“This was a difficult decision to make,” said Bob Gomes, who is the CEO of St. Charles’ Prineville and Redmond hospitals and oversees AirLink’s operations. “We have the best critical care team in the region but we feel this is the right thing to do for Central Oregon.”
As a result of this closure, 27 St. Charles’ caregivers, including 10 registered nurses, 12 respiratory therapists and five office staff, will be laid off. Every effort will be made to place these caregivers in other positions at St. Charles.
St. Charles will continue to operate the service until Metro Aviation, Inc. and Med-Trans Corporation begin operations of a new emergency air ambulance service on or before June 15, assuring continuous air medical service to the region. This means the residents of Central Oregon will continue to have life saving air medical services available to them in the time of a medical emergency. St. Charles has agreed to sell the AirLink name to Metro Aviation for this new air medical service.
“Taking care of patients is St. Charles’ sole focus,” Gomes said. “It makes sense for Metro Aviation, Inc., and Med-Trans Corporation — both leaders in their respective industries — to focus on operating the air ambulance service for pre-hospital critical care in Central Oregon. They’re able to achieve efficiencies that we cannot, making the brand stronger and more competitive into the future.”
As part of its move to close its air ambulance operations, St. Charles will sell its aircraft to Metro Aviation, Inc., which will continue to provide pilots and mechanics. Med-Trans Corporation will provide the qualified clinical flight team, comprised of a registered nurse and paramedic. Some of the current AirLink team members may be eligible for hire with Med-Trans to staff the new program.
“We are very excited to begin this new chapter in Bend, Ore., providing critical care to patients throughout the region,” said Fred Buttrell, president and chief executive officer of Med-Trans Corporation. “The AirLink brand is synonymous with critical patient care and safe air medical transports, which aligns with our service to St. Charles Health System, area health care professionals and the community.”
Current owners of an AirLink Critical Care Transport membership will have their membership honored by Med-Trans Membership. With a Med-Trans Membership, members have access to the AirMedCare Network, the largest air medical membership network in the United States with more than 1 million members and 166 aircraft locations throughout 25 states.
NOTE: St. Charles, Med-Trans and Metro Aviation officials will be available for interviews until 1 p.m. today.
About St. Charles Health System
St. Charles Health System, Inc., headquartered in Bend, Ore., owns and operates the St. Charles medical centers in Bend and Redmond, leases and operates Pioneer Memorial Hospital in Prineville and provides management services for Mountain View Hospital in Madras. St. Charles is a private, not-for-profit Oregon corporation and is the largest employer in Central Oregon with more than 3,000 caregivers in Bend, Redmond and Prineville. In addition, there are more than 350 active medical staff members and nearly 200 visiting medical staff members who partner with St. Charles to provide a wide range of care and service to our communities.
Med-Trans Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is a leading FAA Part 135 operator, providing air ambulance programs throughout the United States. A proven solution to our partners, Med-Trans offers an array of customized air medical program designs including hybrid models, community based models or traditional hospital-based models. The company’s extensive fleet rapidly delivers teams of highly trained professionals to patients, striving to provide the patient with the best possible outcome. For more information, please visit: www.med-trans.net
About Metro Aviation
Metro Aviation, Inc. was established in 1982 as a helicopter charter, flight training, and maintenance operation facility. Since then, Metro Aviation, Inc. has grown substantially in size, and is internationally recognized for its excellence in helicopter transportation services. Today, Metro Aviation, Inc. is an FAA certified Airframe Modification, Maintenance, Inspection and Repair center, and is proud to offer traditional services to its valued customers.