Mercy Health System ending 20-year partnership on Life Flight helicopters with UTMC

A Life Flight helicopter arrives at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in this file photo.
A Life Flight helicopter arrives at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in this file photo.

Mercy Health System is ending a 20-year partnership with the University of Toledo Medical Center to share the Life Flight helicopters that transport patients who have suffered a trauma from accident scenes to hospitals.

Mercy, which owns and operates the Critical Care Transport Network helicopters, has informed UTMC, the former Medical College of Ohio, that it will not renew the partnership agreement that expires at the end of this month, said Dr. Ron McGinnis, interim dean of UTMC'S College of Medicine.

“Currently Mercy has agreed to extend it for three months so we continue in talks with them and are looking at other options regarding transport,” Dr. McGinnis said.

When asked if Mercy would consider extending the contract again at the end of the three months, a Mercy spokesman would only say: “At this time, the contract extension expires on July 1, 2014.”

Under terms of the current agreement, UTMC pays Mercy about $1.3 million a year to help cover the cost of the network that operates five medical helicopters and five mobile ambulances that transport critically ill patients to either Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, UTMC, or St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, said Dr. McGinnis.

Operating medical helicopter systems is very expensive for hospital systems and UTMC's payments to Mercy have been steadily increasing over the last six years, while the total number of flights have declined, David Morlock, UT's vice president of finance, said at a recent Board of Trustees meeting.

Citing "competitive reasons," Mercy officials declined to provide information about the number of trauma flights that the service provides each year or to say whether the hospital has seen a decrease in the use of the service in recent years.

Mercy has cited business reasons as behind its decision to separate from UTMC.