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Air Methods Maryland won't have much impact on use of MSP medevac helicopters

November 25, 2009|By BRIDGET DiCOSMO

HAGERSTOWN -- The presence of a new air medical transport company in Hagerstown won't have a major impact on use of Maryland State Police medevac helicopters at accident scenes, according to Dr. Robert Bass, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS).

There is, however, an operational agreement between emergency services in Maryland and Air Methods Maryland to assist state police medical air transport on 911 calls when needed, Bass said.

Commercial medical aviation companies generally handle calls from hospitals when a patient needs to be transported to another facility, and Maryland State Police helicopters fly on 911 emergency calls, but the roles do intersect.

"In some jurisdictions, that's a rare occurrence. In other jurisdictions, that happens fairly frequently," Bass said.

Sometimes, a commercial helicopter will be more readily accessible or closer than a state police helicopter. Other times, several patients at a scene will be in need of emergency transportation.

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In those cases, Air Methods Maryland will be able to assist Maryland State Police, company business manager Howard Gant said.

Gant described Air Methods as a "community model," meaning it will assist the community at large and doesn't have a contract to transport patients to a specific hospital or medical center.

From Jan. 1, 2007, through Tuesday, there were four Washington County 911 calls for helicopters handled by commerical companies, according to James Brown, spokesman for MIEMSS. In Frederick County, Md., commercial helicopters fielded 22 emergency calls to scenes in that same period, Brown said.

In cases in which Air Methods picks up victims from accident scenes, the company will bill the person's insurance company for service, a key difference from the state medevac system.

"We've had very little problems with billing from accident scenes," Gant said.

Because vehicle registration fees in Maryland include a surcharge that goes toward funding the Emergency Medical System, a patient flown on a Maryland state police helicopter does not receive a bill for the service.

STAT MedEvac, a commercial air medical transport company that ended its Hagerstown operations in October, did not have an operational agreement to assist in 911 calls in Washington County, said Brigette Heller, Washington County EMS coordinator.

Since Air Methods Maryland began taking calls Nov. 15, the company's helicopters have responded to at least one 911 call in West Virginia, and expect to receive 911 calls from Pennsylvania, Gant said.

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