LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The back-up medical helicopter service that is stationing a chopper in Lee County, says it will express interest in getting the franchise permanently. Aero Med, based in Tampa, says it could handle the job here after Medstar.
"I don't think that this back-up service is what we want. They have shown, they have some problems and have failed," said Lee commissioner Brian Bigelow.
In fact, Aero Med's chopper could not respond to 3 emergencies in the past 40 days. Two of the "no-fly" decisions resulted from faulty warning lights; one from mechanical failure.
"I want us to get the Medstar program fixed and get it flying again. We need it for the safetyof our residents and visitors," said Bigelow.
But his opinion may be a minority. Other commissioners have at least privately expressed an interest in hiring a private company to handle medical flights.
The county-run system, Medstar, is grounded because of personnel issues and improper billing practicies.
Current Lee paramedic Dan Ceresa tells WINK News: "I say go with a re-worked Medstar. We have the pilots here, they are trained on our copters. I have worked for private companies before in medical flights. I say, the county-run system focuses on helping people. Private systems focus on making a profit."
Ceresa flew on Medstar for 10 years, and says until about three years ago, it was a superb program that was the equal of any in the U.S.
Commissioners will look at letters of interest from private companies in early November. Then the commissioners are supposed to provide guidance on whether to hire a private vendor, or revive the suspended Medstar operation.