For the past 16 years Anchorage’s disabled had a reliable, everyday mode of transportation to get them to and from their medical appointments and healthcare facilities. No longer.
On Thursday officials from LifeMed Alaska made the announcement it would cease its wheelchair van operation, effective immediately due to “an unexpected change in the Municipality of Anchorage’s ‘Vehicle for Hire’ regulations.”
LifeMed is calling all patients and providers informing them that services will cease effective immediately, said Cheryl Zernia, spokeswoman for LifeMed.
LifeMed’s 13 wheelchair vans would travel the streets of Anchorage every day transporting patients to their desired appointments and facilities. The 13 employees performed as many as 17,000 round-trip wheelchair van transports each year, according to a statement released by LifeMed.
“We operated our wheelchair division as a charity for patients in Anchorage,” said CEO Scott Kirby in a press release. “We are disappointed that this turn of events has resulted in this outcome.”
LifeMed officials are citing a change in Anchorage Municipality Code 11.10-11.40 in which the service was able to operate under the “private ambulance services” regulations as the reason for the shutdown.
Under the new stipulations, LifeMed would have to abide by the “vehicle for hire” regulations, which leaves the service subject to annual fees per vehicle, inspections at an automotive maintenance shop appointed by the Municipality and a chauffeur license for each wheelchair van driver, according to the code.
According to Eric Musser, Anchorage Municipal transportation inspector, the annual vehicle permit fee is $1,980 per vehicle while the maintenance costs would amount to about $65 per vehicle.
LifeMed officials are encouraging any who are affected by the closure to contact their local taxi cab company for future transports to and from their medical appointments.
Patients can call the following services for future transportation:
- AnchorRides: 343-2550
- BAC Transportation, LLC: 222-2600
- Quick Rides, LLC: 268-8266 or 268-9248
- Alaska Yellow Cab: 222-2222
Blue Trans, LLC: 764-1310
Channel 2's Mallory Peebles contributed to this report.