Hawaii’s LifeSave KuPono service, which had three bases in Honolulu, Kahului and Hilo, shut down on Wednesday 7 September.
Noel Kuehner, a Certified Flight Nurse with the organization who spoke to news website Hawaii News Now, said that the closure was ‘very abrupt’, and that ‘nobody really saw it coming’.
The closure leaves rival Hawaii LifeFlight as the sole air ambulance provider operating across the Pacific Island state.
The St Joseph, Missouri base’s closure was announced on 8 September. However, Director of Field Operations for Buchanan County EMS, Steve Groshong, said that the closure would have a relatively small impact on air ambulance coverage.
He noted that there are still bases in operation in Topeka, Clarinda, Kansas City and Chillicothe, adding that ‘response times are going to be just a little bit different, and the way that we reach out and contact them is going to be just a little bit different’.
‘Tremendous pressures from the No Surprises Act, unprecedented inflation, and significant under-reimbursement from Medicare, which the government hasn’t updated in nearly 20 years’ were cited as the reason behind the closure by an unnamed Air Methods spokesperson speaking to local new channel KQTV.
Air Methods reported poor earnings for Q2 2022
In a statement, Air Methods said: “The decision to close a base is never taken lightly as we understand this further impacts access to critical healthcare services in communities that greatly depend on them. Therefore, Air Methods conducted extensive financial analysis and explored every option at our disposal for nearly a year but ultimately, determined that keeping these bases open is simply unsustainable.
“We are, however, always open to collaborating with hospitals or local agencies to find viable ways to keep bases open as our ultimate goal is to provide life-saving efforts to those who need us the most,” it added.
The news of the base closures comes a month after Air Methods reported poor financial figures for the second quarter (Q2) of 2022 – US$46.1 million in adjusted earnings, a 58 per cent fall from US$110.3 million for Q2 2021.
Net revenue per transport, another key metric, declined 15 per cent compared to first quarter because of the federal bill.
Air Methods’ citing the No Surprises Act – a law which took effect in January 2022, limiting how much patients can be billed for emergency services from care providers outside their insurance network – is significant. The company has been an early and vocal proponent of the law since its signing into law by former President Donald Trump in December 2020.