Abrupt closure of air ambulance company leaves many in shock
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The parent company of LifeSave KuPono shut down the air ambulance service Wednesday, leaving just one air ambulance company serving the islands.
“I now there’s a lot of people that are hurting today,” said certified flight registered nurse Noel Kuehner.
“It was a very abrupt base closure. Nobody really saw it coming.”
Kuehner has been flying on air ambulances around the islands for 10 years, the last few with LifeSave Kupono, which as three bases in Honolulu, Kahului and Hilo.
“You’ve got 22 highly-skilled nurse and paramedics that have been providing conscientious care to the community, and they’re out of work today,” said Keuhner.
LiveSave KuPono flew patients from the neighbor islands to the trauma unit at The Queen’s Medical Center, or to Straub Medical Center or Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.
The parent company, Air Methods, said it closed several bases nationwide Wednesday, blaming unprecedented inflation and the federal “No Surprises Act” that requires the disclosure of medical expense estimates.
It also said there was significant under-reimbursement from Medicare, which would pay only about 10% for an air ambulance transport, which can cost $15,000 to $30,000 or more.
“I’m surprised by the timing, but not really shocked, because there are a number of things going on in the marketplace,” said Speedy Bailey, the Hawaii Regional Manager of AMR, which operates Life Flight.
Life Flight has eight bases around the islands as well as seven planes and one helicopter.
Bailey said it would be able to handle the increased call volume, as Hilo Medical and Maui Memorial Medical said they rarely used LifeSave KuPono.
“We’ve been here before, we can do it again,” said Bailey, noting previous air ambulance shutdowns. “We’re very confident that the service and care will be provided.”
Bailey also said AMR is considering hiring at least some, if not all, of the health care workers displaced by the closure of LifeSave KuPono.
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