LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A new era begins Thursday morning in Lee County. A private company will take over medical helicopter service. Lee had operated the public Medstar program for more than 30 years. Medstar shut down last August, amid problems.
"I am looking forward, not back. I am excited because this will be a great service for the people and will save Lee county about $2 million a year," says Scott Tuttle, chief of Lee Emergency Medical Services.
Air Methods Corp. of Colorado will run the new "Lee Flight" program. The company will supply the pilots, mechanics and nurses, as well as the helicopter itself. Lee will provide paramedics for the emergency flights.
"We're ready to take over on Thursday and show the people that they have no worries about our service. The can have confidence in us, if their loved ones get into an accident on the highway and need air transport," says Mark Lentz of Air Methods.
Air Methods will handle billing for flights and it will deal with federal aviation regulators. Both of those issues proved to be problems for Medstar in its final year or two of operation. Lee has relied on a back-up service from Tampa General Hospital, to replace Medstar, since last August.
Lee still owns two Medstar choppers, and will look to sell both in coming months.