- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | House Speaker Michael Busch appointed 14 delegates to review Maryland’s emergency medical services system on Tuesday as the General Assembly examines ways to improve the state’s medevac system after a crash killed four people in September.

Mr. Busch said he decided to create the work group to prepare recommendations that could result in legislation.

“This is really about preparing, getting the best information to make the best decisions that we can make,” said Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

He said he decided the review would be useful as lawmakers focus on addressing an audit that raised maintenance issues for the state’s aging helicopter fleet, which Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, wants to replace with new helicopters. Mr. O’Malley has included $40 million for two helicopters in the budget he made public last week.

The group has been formed to best organize a legislative effort to make any changes to the system, said Delegate John Bohanan, St. Mary’s Democrat, who is the group’s chairman.

The work group will focus on the structure of the statewide emergency medical system, including the role of local and state agencies. It also will examine funding for the system, and the structure of the Maryland State Police Aviation Division, which includes eight bases.

The group, which has been asked to report back with recommendations by March, also will consider the role of commercial carriers and the helicopter procurement process.

Maryland lawmakers have started debating how many helicopters are needed, particularly because the state is battling serious financial problems. The number of Maryland medevac transports have dropped significantly since new protocols were put in place after the fatal accident in Prince George’s County.

Two senators, Republican E.J. Pipkin of Caroline County, and Democrat John Astle of Anne Arundel County, are proposing legislation to change how the state’s well-regarded medevac system is managed.

The proposal would split the current helicopter program into two fleets, one focusing on emergency medical services and the other on law enforcement, homeland security and search and rescue. It also would require the state’s program to be certified by the nationally recognized Commission on the Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems.

Another component would require the Maryland State Police, which currently operates the program, to submit a bid along with private certified helicopter providers to get a clear picture of expenses associated with the operation.


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