Air ambulance company closes Paducah base

PHI Air Medical shut down services in Paducah. A spokeswoman out of Virginia says the base didn’t have enough volume to continue putting money into operations.

The hanger where a medical helicopter was housed is completely empty only a day after PHI Medical Air announced it’s closing its Paducah base.

"It was shock a bit, a little bit of shock," Mercy Regional EMS Executive Director Jeremy Jeffrey said about when he heard the news.

Jeffrey’s crew at Mercy still has a job to do.

"Now we’ll be waiting anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to get a helicopter into McCracken County," Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey says the majority of patients are transported by ground. 

Many times ambulances would bring patients to the PHI base and airlift them from there. Now, they’ll be airlifted from Paducah hospitals.

"So you’re probably seeing a 20 to 30 minute difference from what we would have had with PHI here," Jeffrey said.

Even though the base is closed, other helicopter services are available in the area.

"We think we can absorb any flights in McCracken," said Mark Harrison, program director Mayfield’s Air Evac .

Harrison says Air Evac has six bases surrounding the area, some only 20 to 30 minutes away.

"We may see a bit of an increase in volume or in flight requests but, honestly, it’s going to be business as usual for us," Harrison said. 

Jeffrey isn’t worried either.

"The level of service will not drop," he said.
Other area bases include St. Louis’ ARCH Air Medical, which has two bases in southern Illinois. Mercy also works with LifeFlight out of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

PHI Regional Director Matt Ishmael wouldn’t speak on camera on Friday. He did say PHI will continue transporting Paducah patients from it’s Greenville, Kentucky, base about an hour and a half away.

He sent this statement:

"Thank you for your inquiry. PHI Air Medical continually reviews each region in which it operates in order to determine the most effective way to provide emergent care to its citizens. In this specific case, we have made the difficult decision to close the Paducah base. While it is always difficult to leave a community, PHI Air Medical will still be able to provide transports for Paducah from our base located in Greenville, KY. We look forward to sharing more information when it is available."

PHI has bases around the country. Ishmael said employees at the Paducah PHI base will be relocated. 

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