Civil vs Government-operated Aeromed Services the Issue in Maryland

 - January 23, 2008, 9:14 AM

Commercial aeromed helicopter operators are claiming that Maryland state officials are overstepping their authority in a bid to impose additional rules restricting emergency air-transport operations in that middle Atlantic state. Maryland’s statewide EMS system is run by its state police. Working in cooperation with the University of Maryland’s groundbreaking shock trauma center, now grown to a statewide network of facilities headquartered in Baltimore, the Maryland State Police fleet of helicopters virtually wrote the book on EMS operations and was tasked with covering the entire state. However, the state police law-enforcement mission has always taken precedence, leaving de facto room for commercial operators such as Stat Medevac and MedStar to assist with aeromedical transport. As the Maryland situation has evolved, state police helicopters handle the vast majority of flights from accident scenes, while commercial ambulances dominate flights between hospitals. Such inter-facility flights have become the bread-and-butter of the aeromed industry. There are no regulations that spell out this arrangement, however, and the proposed rules, state officials believe, would clarify it. As for the helicopter operators, proponents of both the civil and government positions each accuse the other of putting politics and profits ahead of patient safety. State government hearings into the issue are continuing throughout the spring.