Pharr plans to close RGV Angel Flight in mid-September – Progress Times

The city of Pharr plans to shut down RGV Angel Flight — a helicopter that responds to emergency medical calls in Hidalgo County — on September 15.

Pharr announced the decision Thursday in a memo distributed to local governments by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council.

“Operating a rotary-wing service is truly a regional asset and as such the cost should be spread across the region. Unfortunately, at this time and after multiple meetings with other agencies, no one has committed to partnering with this venture,” said Pharr EMS Chief Daniel Ramirez. written in the note. “The city of Pharr can no longer commit the financial resources for the whole region. We have come to the point that without any regional financial support, we cannot continue to operate RGV Angel Flight.

Pharr declined to make Ramirez available for an interview and declined to release a statement on the decision. Mayor Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The city’s financial problems are not limited to RGV Angel Flight.

Pharr also sent a letter to District 3 of Hidalgo County on August 22, rescinding an agreement to provide the western part of Hidalgo County with EMS service.

“The City recently conducted an assessment of the fiscal feasibility of providing EMS services pursuant to this agreement and it has become apparent that the City is unable to continue to provide the services without facing significant financial hardship” , according the letter. “While the City wishes to continue to provide these essential services, it simply cannot continue to do so under the terms as written.”

The RGV Angel Flight helicopter as seen in a video released by the City of Pharr in March 2022. (Image courtesy of the City of Pharr.)

Pharr launched RGV Angel Flight in 2021, when the city launched Pharr EMS.

RGV Angel Flight responded to car accidents and other medical calls throughout the region.

In parts of the Rio Grande Valley, an ambulance can take 30 minutes or more to reach a patient – ​​and another 30 minutes or more to get the patient to the hospital.

RGV Angel Flight allowed Pharr EMS to provide a significantly faster service, which saved lives.

“Really, in Pharr, it’s rare that we use the helicopter because we’re so close to the hospitals,” Ramirez told the Pharr City Commission during a meeting in March. “A good example would be if we had a burn patient. We would send the helicopter to the scene, where they could fly directly to San Antonio so they could get the care they needed instead of having that delay of going to a local hospital.

In addition to the helicopter, Pharr operated an aircraft that ferried patients to hospitals in other parts of Texas.

Ramirez told the city commission that Pharr was the only city in Texas to have both a helicopter and an airplane providing medical services.

The RGV Angel Flight logo. (Image courtesy of City of Pharr.)

In fiscal year 2021-22, the city estimated that Pharr EMS would collect nearly $24.2 million in revenue. Estimated revenue included $9 million in “flight revenue” and $4 million in “fixed-wing” revenue from the aircraft.

Pharr EMS would cost nearly $22.4 million to operate, according to the budget, leaving the city with nearly $1.8 million.

The memo suggests that Pharr fell short of expected revenue figures.

RGV Angel Flight was not the only helicopter operating in Hidalgo County.

Air Methods, which bills itself as “the leading provider of airline medical services in the United States,” opened a Weslaco location in June.

“We certainly want to assure the community that they will always have access to such an essential healthcare service through Air Methods,” said Denisse Coffman, vice president of corporate communications for Air Methods.

RGV Angel Flight is scheduled to stop at 11:59 p.m. on September 15.

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