Reach Air Medical Services confirmed Monday that its Helena locations closed effective Friday, Nov. 2.
Robyn Dondero, senior director of business operations, confirmed the closing of both the rotor-wing helicopter and fixed-wing airplane bases.
Dondero characterized the closing as a business decision.
“It’s a huge decision and it never comes easy,” Dondero said. “It’s a very sad day when this happens.”
A press release stated that the decision to close was “made following careful consideration by the organization’s leaders.”
"We are incredibly grateful to the residents and health care providers in Helena and the surrounding communities for the trust and loyalty they have shown Reach over the past three and a half years," said Sean Russell, President of Reach Air Medical Services. "With the evolving health care market in the state of Montana, it proved to be too difficult to sustain these two base operations successfully given the current dynamics, therefore we have made the hard decision to pursue an exit from Helena."
The rotor-wing operation in Bozeman will be maintained and used to service Helena after this closure, confirmed Dondero. She said the helicopter flight time from Bozeman to Helena is roughly 35 minutes.
The 23 employees of the Helena bases met with Reach’s human resources department Friday.
“We are really hoping to retain every employee of the Helena location,” she said.
Dondero explained that the goal is to keep many highly skilled and trained individuals within the company. The company has met with them to make offers and is allowing them time to consider.
“This closure had nothing to do with them," she said. "They’ve done nothing but go above and beyond."
Helena Regional Airport Director Jeff Wadekamper said that it appears Reach has already completed its move out of the airport. He said the company leased a hanger from a private owner who leased the land from the airport.
“You hate to see any aircraft carrier leave,” Wadekamper said, adding that Reach’s departure won’t impact the airport financially.
Lincoln Volunteer Fire Rescue, which used Reach as a backup in the past, commented on its Facebook page, “It’s unfortunate when we lose a medical resource, but we will continue to provide the best care possible with the resources available."
According to Dr. Shelly Harkins, chief medical officer at St. Peter's Health, "St. Peter's Health does not exclusively work with Reach Air Medical Services for medical air transport. I'd like to reassure our community that we don't foresee any changes or interruption to the transport of our patients when that's medically necessary."