Demand Accountability and Reinstatment of the MEDSTAR program!
On Tuesday, August 21th, 2012 Lee County issued a press release announcing that it had suspended its helicopter air ambulance and critical care program to seek a voluntary national accreditation. During the suspension of the program, the Director of Operations was terminated along with three other pilots and the 12 flight paramedics were re-assigned to ground operations to staff ambulances.
Lee County EMS MEDSTAR helicopter program is one of the oldest in the United States, recently celebrating its 36 year of service. In 2007, MEDSTAR started providing critical care transport by helicopter and by ground using a specialized ground ambulance. Since the inception of the critical care program, no clinical deficiencies have been reported, nor was any attempt made to correct any perceived deficiencies by EMS Management. The first indication of clinical concerns came during TV news coverage the afternoon following the program suspension.
Under EMS Chief Dickerson, this is the second time MEDSTAR operations have been suspended. In July 2011, Chief Dickerson called a six week long “Safety Stand-Down”, during which industry experts were contracted to recommend program improvements to management. These expert recommendations have never been discussed nor have any modifications been made to the program in the year following.
The truth behind why all the program’s line pilots were laid-off instead of just terminating the Director of Operations is simple....EMS Management wanted to remove the company trainer/ check airman pilot without firing him to avoid a federal whistle blower lawsuit. Prior to the program's suspension, the company trainer/ check airman pilot had been suspended for THREE MONTHS with pay after reporting illegal training/ checkrides to the FAA. While suspended with pay, his position was filled by other pilots on overtime (time and half).
The TRUTH Behind the CLAIMS
CLAIM #1: “The current MEDSTAR program could not obtain national accreditation without a nurse”
TRUTH #1: Page 6, 7, 8 & 28 of the CAMTs 8th Edition Accreditation Standards allows for “alternative team composition; for example paramedic-led teams”. The removed MEDSTAR team met and in some instances exceeded the accreditation requirements. View a free copy at www.camts.org/04_8th_Edition_1_.pdf. In addition, Collier County’s helicopter currently operates with two paramedics and is still providing service to Lee County.
CLAIM #2: “Because the MEDSTAR Director of Operations was terminated, the other three pilots had to be terminated per the FAA”.
TRUTH #2: With the termination of the Director of Operations, MEDSTAR could have continued to operate legally under Part 91 of the FAA Federal Aviation Regulations until a replacement Director Pilot was hired. Lee County could have also appointed an interim Chief Pilot to continue flying under Part 135. Additional, two of three pilots are state certified EMTs, they could have also been re-assigned to an ambulance until the rebuild was complete. All three terminated pilots are ARMY VETERANS, two of which JUST SERVED in IRAQ! They were the “right mix” to risk their lives for our freedom, but no longer the “right mix” to fly Lee County’s helicopters according to Chief Dickerson and Director Wilson?
CLAIM #3: “The team that we had in place, we didn’t feel it was the right team to get us where we wanted to go; however, the pilots and flight paramedics can reapply when that accreditation goal is achieved”.
TRUTH #3: The former MEDSTAR team of pilots and flight paramedics collectively possessed many of the industries top ratings...from all the pilots being rated as helicopter Air Transport Pilots to the flight paramedics being board certified in flight and critical care medicine.
After signing the petition go to http://www.SaveMEDSTAR.org for updates and more FACTS!