MedE­vac ser­vices face no-fly nights

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Front Page - By CHRISTINA ACOSTA ca­[email protected]­dem.com

EAS­TON — Emer­gen­cies that oc­cur on the Mid-Shore be­tween 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. most likely will not re­ceive Mary­land State Po­lice Trooper 6 MedE­vac ser­vice, due to he­li­copter pi­lot and flight para­medic short­ages.

Eas­ton Air­port Man­ager Micah Risher out­lined the is­sue Dec. 20 at Tal­bot County’s an­nual meet­ing with the lo­cal del­e­ga­tion to the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly. Re­cent state­ments by MSP spokesman Greg Shipley in­di­cated there are about 14 he­li­copter pi­lot va­can­cies and 17 flight medic va­can­cies statewide.

“Mem­bers of our Avi­a­tion Com­mand have met with of­fi­cials in Tal­bot and Dorch­ester coun­ties, the Mary­land State Fire­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion and area fire de­part­ments re­gard­ing our com­mit­ment to en­sure a MedE­vac he­li­copter is avail­able when needed,” Shipley said. “If Trooper 6 is not im­me­di­ately avail­able, we will con­tinue to use other he­li­copters in our fleet that can re­spond within es­tab­lished pro­to­cols, as well as our other al­lies

that are part of Mary­land’s world-renowned in­te­grated emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices sys­tem to pro­vide this life­sav­ing re­source.”

Shipley said state po­lice ef­forts to re­cruit he­li­copter pi­lots and flight paramedics are con­tin­u­ing.

Di­rec­tor of Emer­gency Ser­vices/As­sis­tant County Man­ager Clay Stamp said from his un­der­stand­ing, the state po­lice have had chal­lenges with man­power and he un­der­stands they are work­ing dili­gently to ad­dress the is­sue.

“The Mary­land State Po­lice, like our­selves, op­er­ate in an emer­gency ser­vices sys­tem,” Stamp said. “In their case, they have pi­lots, flight paramedics that they have to keep on board in or­der to pro­vide ser­vice just like we have to pro­vide paramedics emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cians dis­patch­ers.

“From time to time, it be­comes chal­leng­ing to at­tract help when cer­tain things oc­cur that im­pact sched­ul­ing.”

MSP He­li­copter Trooper 6, based at Eas­ton Air­port, cur­rently is “grounded” from to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday due to staffing short­ages. The MSP has con­tin­gency plans that al­low for he­li­copters from the west­ern shore, such as Martin State Air­port of An­drews Air Force Base, or Sal­is­bury to cover the MidShore, but that de­lays the ar­rival of po­ten­tially life­sav­ing re­sources.

“Ser­vices be­ing re­duced by 48 hours a week, af­ter seven o’clock tonight, we don’t have a trooper in our first due area,” Risher said. “We will have to find some­one to pick it up.

“Why it is im­por­tant for us is be­cause there is no trauma cen­ter in the Mid-Shore. So talk­ing to the troop­ers, one thing where you get into a bad ac­ci­dent in Sal­is­bury, they can ground trans­port you by am­bu­lance to Penin­sula Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter and get that in trauma care. They can’t do that in Eas­ton, so that where its com­pli­cated.”

The de­lay in re­sponse time is com­pounded by the lack of a trauma cen­ter in the area. Pa­tients must be take to Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal in Bal­ti­more or Penin­sula Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter, roughly 20 min­utes flight time from Eas­ton. Trooper 6 is the only MedE­vac that does not have a trauma cen­ter in its “first due” area.

Stamp said the Mary­land State Po­lice Avi­a­tion Di­vi­sion has reached out to emer­gency re­spon­ders to ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion. He also said they have es­tab­lished a pro­gram to en­sure ad­e­quate cov­er­age in the state through a se­ries of strate­gic clo­sures of cer­tain bases while main­tain­ing ad­e­quate cov­er­age statewide.

“They are in a bet­ter po­si­tion to ex­plain the process they are us­ing to get through their is­sue,” Stamp said. “They have ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion is tem­po­rary and that the Eas­ton base will be fully staffed in the near fu­ture ... They are keep­ing us up to date as to the sta­tus.”

Be­cause the short­ages im­pact the en­tire state, Risher rec­om­mended that Trooper 6 be pri­or­i­tized ahead of other he­li­copters and be fully staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The State Po­lice Avi­a­tion Com­mand needs fi­nan­cial re­sources to de­velop in­cen­tive pro­grams to hire and re­tain avi­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als.

Tal­bot County Man­ager Andy Hol­lis stood firm in say­ing there needs to be im­prove­ment.

“We fall on the hard for the es­tab­lish­ment of this base in Eas­ton Air­port, and there is a rea­son for that,” Hol­lis said. “We want to make sure that, num­ber one, that it stays there and that, num­ber two, it op­er­ates at an op­ti­mum level of ser­vice. So yes in terms of ser­vice we are pro­vid­ing, it is work­ing. But it could be im­proved back to where it was, and that would be the di­rec­tion we would like to see it go­ing.”

PHOTO BY HANNAH COMBS

The Mary­land State Po­lice Avi­a­tion Com­mand is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a short­age of pi­lots and flight paramedics.

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