By Guy Leonard, County Times
HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Nov. 13, 2008)—Officials with the Maryland State Police say the recent reduction of hours of operation for Trooper 7, the helicopter responsible for casualty evacuation to regional trauma units, is due to a reduction in manpower agency wide
In the aftermath of the crash of another state police helicopter in inclement weather last month, the aviation division has become short staffed and leadership is working to provide as much medical evacuation coverage as possible, said Greg Shipley, Maryland State Police spokesman.
This was the time
to scale back to meet manpower and helicopter demands around the state, Shipley told The County Times Monday. Its an issue were continuing to address.
The crash of Trooper 2 in Prince Georges County resulted in the deaths of two state troopers, an emergency medical technician and one patient.
The County Times published a story last week reporting the cutting of the hours of locally-based Trooper 7 from a 24-hour-7-day-a-week operation to just 12 hours per day.
Local emergency operations personnel were concerned that the cutting in half of Trooper 7s hours could result in increased response times.
One official said the time could increase to as much as 20 to 25 minutes if Trooper 7 was not available and another helicopter had to come in from either Andrews Air Force Base in Prince Georges County, Washington Hospital Center in Montgomery County or U.S. Park Police in the District.
Del. John Wood (D-Dist.29A) said his inquiries into the matter showed that budget cuts were at least partially responsible for the cutback in Trooper 7s hours of operation.
Those are the only answers we could get, Wood said in a phone interview Monday. Thats all Ive been able to find out.
Shipley disputed Woods claim that budget issues had anything to do with Trooper 7s scheduling.
Emergency operation officials here said they were informed of the situation regarding Trooper 7 availability just about two weeks ago and the information only came through informal channels.
The County Times was made aware of the situation by a citizen tip, which was later confirmed by local law enforcement and emergency management personnel.
Wood said the tri-county delegation from St. Marys, Charles and Calvert counties would meet soon to discuss how they could push for a return of round-theclock operating hours for the medevac unit.
I dont think any of us are happy, Wood told The County Times, adding that delegation members had heard of the situation only informally. Most of them heard about it the way I heard about it.
Getting 24-hour medical evacuation coverage was going to be an important issue for the tri-county delegation, Wood said.
That will be one of our top priorities, Wood said. Im sure of that.
The Maryland Board of Public Works recently approved $300 million in budget cuts from Gov. Martin OMalleys administration, including a hiring freeze on Maryland State Police positions to the tune of $4.5 million in savings.
No reductions for the aviation units were expressly listed in the budget cuts summary from the state.
The cuts for Maryland State Police also included eliminating 25 vacant positions.