WETUMPKA, AL (WSFA) - Officials with Air Evac Lifeteam say they've made the decision to close their air ambulance base in Elmore County effective immediately. The base had been located in Wetumpka since 2006.
Low demand and reimbursement rates were the factors that led to the decision to close the base, according to a company statement released by its president, Seth Myers.
"The reimbursement issue, along with a low demand for patient transports, made it impossible for us to sustain operations at the base," Myers said. "As a result of the state's decision not to expand Medicaid, nearly a quarter of the residents we fly in Alabama are self-pay with very little means to pay medical expenses. For those patients covered by Medicaid, they currently reimburse just over $500 for the transport of an adult. The high fixed cost of air ambulance makes it impossible for us to continue to operate with no indication of improvement in sight."
The company has two other bases within an 80-mile flight range of Elmore County. They're located in Demopolis and LaGrange, Ga.
Before announcing the closure to the public, Myers met with employees at the base Tuesday morning to inform them of the decision. All affected crew members are being offered opportunities to work in other areas of the company or take advantage of a severance package.
Air Evac Lifeteam members living in Autauga, Bullock, Butler, Chilton, Crenshaw, Elmore, Montgomery, Pike and Tallapoosa counties will receive a letter this week providing them with details and options regarding their membership, including an option for a prorated refund.
Upon learning of the Elmore County base closing, Sgt. Steve Jarrett with the Alabama Department of Public Safety said: "The helicopter provided invaluable service to people in need of emergency medical transportation, especially in rural areas of the state where it may take an ambulance much longer to respond. As a trooper, it made me feel more secure knowing there was a helicopter EMS transportation service available in case me or one of my fellow troopers was injured in the line of duty."