The Rio Grande Valley’s only helicopter ambulance is currently out of service as Hidalgo County EMS/South Texas AirMed deals with another blow from the federal courts.
On Monday, the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals vacated a temporary injunction the privately owned ambulance company filed against the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in April, when it failed to obtain a $2.6 million loan via the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which SBA administers.
“Because, under well established Fifth Circuit law, the bankruptcy court exceeded its authority when it issued an injunction against the SBA Administrator, we VACATE its preliminary injunction,” Monday’s court order stated.
That same day, the air ambulance was removed from service.
Omar Romero, Hidalgo County EMS’ chief restructuring officer, however, said the aircraft’s absence is not due to repossession.
“No, the air ambulance was not repossessed,” he said Tuesday morning. “I can tell you that as part of the restructuring we are in contract negotiations with the company. It was pulled out of service. It is in Harlingen undergoing standard maintenance operations, but we expect to be back in service probably within a day or two.”
Romero said he was not at liberty to discuss the nature of those contract negotiations, but indicated the local company has been working with PHI Air Medical since it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2019.
PHI Air Medical staff have yet to return a call seeking comment.
“Basically, whenever you restructure anything, you try to make sure that everything is in line for the future health of the company,” Romero said. “But as you could see on the public finance reports, we’ve paid the helicopter company regularly and monthly to the tune of over one million dollars since filing.
“There’s no issue of repossession or any kind of missed payments.”
Romero said Hidalgo County EMS is currently waiting to go to trial. He declined to indicate whether the local ambulance company had been successful in obtaining a PPP loan.
“At the moment, that’s part of ongoing litigation, and I’m not at liberty to discuss where we stand in the process,” he stated.