Air Methods has pulled its helicopter service out of Rome, ceasing operations from a base at Redmond Regional Medical Center as of 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The service, featuring a 2-year-old Bell 407 GXP helicopter, was initiated last summer after Redmond completed the construction of a $350,000 helipad adjacent to the emergency entrance to the hospital, a Level One Cardiac Center.
The company will continue to serve the Northwest Georgia territory with helicopters based in Jasper and Kennesaw.
A statement from Air Methods, based in Colorado, reads, “The cost of this around-the-clock readiness averages nearly $3 million per year for each air base, according to a cost study prepared for the Association of Air Medical Services. Further, approximately 85% of costs are fixed costs associated with operating an air base, giving companies little leeway in reducing costs on their own. However, reimbursement for services has not kept up with costs.”
Air Methods stationed a crew of four pilots, eight clinicians and one mechanic in Rome. Each crew worked a 24-hour shift with living quarters that Redmond developed one floor below the emergency suite at the hospital.
The company is working with all employees on opportunities for other positions within Air Methods.
The press release goes on to say, “We want to thank the Rome community, including the team at Redmond Regional Medical Center, for their support throughout the year.”
In Georgia, nearly 70 percent of the flights are Medicaid, Medicare and self-pay/uninsured, which combined reimburses less than 30 percent of overall costs.
“We don’t self-dispatch nor have any idea of insurance status until after we deliver our patient and finish our mission,” the statement reads.
The withdrawal from Rome will also have an impact on the bottom line at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Rome, but not nearly the kind of impact that had first been imagined. When the company first started the service a year ago, officials estimated that the chopper would be purchasing between $50,000 and $60,000 worth of fuel annually at the airport. John Carroll, the new manager at the Rome airport, said that since Jan. 1, 2018, the service has paid the airport a total of $44,547.54. Carroll said that figure includes call-out fees for after-hours service when needed.
Redmond Regional Medical Center did not provide a statement about the company’s announcement as of press time.
The immediate Rome region is still being served by a helicopter service which is based at the Tom David Airport in Calhoun. A Life Force helicopter, owned by the Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, has been based out of Calhoun for almost 15 years.