Layoffs Expected as Hospital Systems Switch to New Transportation Provider

MetroWest is taking over amid financial troubles at the hospital affiliate that was previously transporting patients.

Randall Children's Hospital (Blake Benard)

Life Flight Networks, which has shuttled patients between Portland hospitals since 2020, is getting out of the non-emergency transportation business. On Aug. 1, it’ll be replaced by MetroWest, an the Hillsboro-based ambulance contractor.

Eighty employees will lose their jobs, although a vast majority will be offered positions at MetroWest, Life Flight says. In an email announcing the plans, its CEO, Ben Clayton, said only clinician employees would be able to transfer over. Everyone else will get three months’ severance. “I’m very sorry for the loss of these dedicated team members,” he wrote.

Life Flight took over non-emergency transportation services for local hospitals after the previous provider, American Medical Response, gave up the contract in 2020. “Our wages and benefits outpaced the stagnant reimbursement rates received, especially by Medicare and Medicaid,” AMR explained in a statement to WW.

So the hospitals turned in-house, asking Life Flight Networks to take over. The company is jointly owned by a consortium of Pacific Northwest hospitals, including Providence, Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University. But it couldn’t make the finances work either, Clayton wrote.

Now, MetroWest thinks it can. “This is our core business and with the economies of scale in the ground transport market along with multiple efficiencies we have developed and built into our systems over the years, we know this is a financially sustainable path for our company and it will continue to be so in the future,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

The news comes amid widespread cost-cutting efforts at Portland hospital systems. Providence is facing the largest nurses’ strike in state history as it refuses, the union says, to match the pay at other hospitals. OHSU is laying off employees and cutting benefits, just months after handing its leaders millions in bonuses. Legacy is in talks to give up the business entirely and merge with OHSU.

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