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Md. State Police say helicopter fleet needs upgrade

August 04, 2008|By JOSH SHAW
(Page 2 of 2)

The helicopters undergo regular inspections after every 100 hours of flight time. After every 600 hours, the helicopters are disassembled down to the frame and parts are inspected. The inspection process is ongoing, Eisele said.

State vs. private

Critics of Maryland's system say the $20 million collected from registration fees is too much to spend for this service and that privatizing the system would save the state money.

State Sen. Nathaniel Exum, D-Prince George's, sponsored a bill in 2004 to create a privatized medevac program but was quoted as saying in a published report that pressure from lobbyists to keep the current system was too overwhelming for change.

STAT MedEvac, a private helicopter transportation company, has 18 helicopters stationed in the mid-Atlantic region, including one in Hagerstown, one in Baltimore and one in Washington D.C.

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The company makes about 700 to 800 flights a year, 35 percent of which are medevac missions, according to STAT MedEvac's Hagerstown base manager Ron Brown. In Maryland, that number is much lower because of the state police's involvement, Brown said.

Unlike Maryland, many states use hospitals that have their own aircraft and private companies for medevac missions and patients end up with an average bill of between $6,000 and $12,000 for the flight, Eisele said.

The private companies do play an important role in Maryland's system, according to George.

"The privates are stepping up," he said. "Inter-transports have gone up in recent years and they do a good job."

Private companies do the majority of air transports between medical facilities. This not only limits the competition between the state police and the private companies, but also makes it possible for the state police helicopters to be free for other emergencies and other types of missions, Eisele said.

Private companies do also get called on if one of their helicopters can get to the scene of an accident quicker than a state police helicopter can, according to George.

Additionally, since the private companies have bases in different areas, bad weather might prevent a state police helicopter from flying, while a private company helicopter at another location might have a clear path to an accident, George said.

STAT MedEvac has contracts with Johns Hopkins and Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., and Brown said the company's relationship with the state police is very good.

George agreed, saying that the whole system works well because of the relationship state police have with both the private companies and the local authorities.

The state emergency medical system relies heavily on both paid and volunteer paramedics in fire and rescue companies across Maryland.

"Almost every paramedic operates under the same protocol so you know exactly what they do," George said. "We have a strong relationship with the medics on the ground and there is a certain level of trust between us."

o More information on R Adams Cowley or the Shock Trauma Center can be obtained at www.umm.edu/shocktrauma.

o More information about Maryland's trauma system can be found at the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems' Web site at www.miemss.org.

Medevac, by the numbers



15 minutes or less: Time it takes for a helicopter to be anywhere in Maryland after takeoff. Average flight time is 11 minutes.

6,000: Estimated number of medevac missions completed last year by the Maryland State Police.

1,500: Approximate number of law enforcement/search and rescue missions completed in fiscal year 2007.

$110 million: Amount earmarked for upgrading or replacing state police helicopters over the next four years including $33.6 million in fiscal year 2009.

$6,000 to $12,000: Typical price of a medevac bill from a private company or hospital.

8: State police bases in Maryland, six of which operate 24 hours a day..

12: Number of helicopters in the state police fleet, including nine that are more than 18 years old.

98 percent: Percent of state police medevac missions that are from the scene of an injury. Only 2 percent of missions are transports between hospitals.

0: Number of casualties the Maryland State Police Aviation Command has had during flights since 1986.

- Maryland State Police

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