Shore worries about loss of MSP Trooper 6 medivac

DENTON — Residents of the Eastern Shore have a new worry about their health, in addition to, or because of, the COVID-19 virus. Early in the pandemic, Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot said the state would not collect taxes from businesses, and even encouraged them to hold onto their cash as the situation developed — but he warned that decreased revenues could mean cuts to state services later.
Later might have arrived.

The Maryland Board of Public Works, comprised on Treasurer Nancy Copp, Governor Larry Hogan and Mr. Franchot, met on July 22 and approved cuts of $413 million in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, as part of an effort to deal with revenue shortfalls. Ms. Copp objected, saying she preferred to wait until the July 15 tax deadline to make a decision.

Gov. Hogan and Mr. Franchot voted for the cuts, though the governor said, “I can tell you I don’t like a single one of them.”
One cost-saving measure being considered is the elimination of one of the six Maryland State Police medivac units. Trooper 6 is located in Easton.
Eastern Shore patients with serious injuries or illnesses might be some distance from a hospital, especially if they need to be treated on at a western shore facility, such as Shock Trauma in Baltimore. The potential loss of a nearby medivac chopper has raised concerns that the sparsely populated Shore might lose out to wealthier and more politically influential areas west of the Bay.

President of the Caroline County Commissioners Larry Porter released a statement Friday, saying, “The state has been considering reducing the number of Medivac units for some time. The maintenance costs associated with operation is in danger of making the fund that pays the cost of the medivac system insolvent in the next few years.
“The State and EMS Board are conducting a study to investigate the feasibility of reducing the number of stations. The study is scheduled to be completed in September.

“As part of the anticipated cuts to the State budget required by COVID-related revenue shortfall, Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) David Brinkley recommended elimination of one unit. The Board of Public Works voted to approve that as part of their additional package of cuts.
“The specific location was not identified. We have been in contact with the Governor’s office and EMS Board representatives to emphasize how crucial Trooper 6 is to Caroline County and the Eastern Shore.
“We will continue to stay on top of this issue and strongly advocate that Trooper 6 NOT be the unit chosen for reduction.

“Caroline County and Queen Anne’s County are the only counties to not have hospitals. The loss of medivac aviation would devastating.”
State Senator Steve Hershey (R-36) represents Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Caroline counties in Annapolis. In a statement Friday, he said he and State Senator Addie Eckardt (R-37) spoke with Mr. Brinkley and MSP Superintendent Jerry Jones about the issue.
Sen. Hershey sent an email on to Mr. Brinkley and Superintendent Jones on behalf of the District 36 and 37 delegations. The group is comprised of the two senators, and Delegates Jay Jacobs, Steve Arentz, Jeff Ghrist, Sheree Sample-Hughes, John Mautz and Christopher Adams.

“We understand that budget cuts are imminent and some undoubtedly will affect the MSP,” the letter read in part. “However, when it comes to the health and safety of our citizens, the Mid-Shore already comprises the only two Maryland counties without a hospital [Queen Anne’s and Caroline]; we are in the process of downsizing from an acute care hospital to a freestanding medical facility in Dorchester County; and we are constantly threatened that we may lose our hospital in Kent County. Quite simply, the Eastern Shore is not the area to scale back healthcare services for the purpose of statewide budget cuts.”

Sen. Hershey concluded his email saying, “If the closure of Trooper 6 is truly being discussed, we immediately demand DBM and MSP hold multiple public hearings throughout the Mid-Shore to explain how the state will be able to provide a comparable level of advanced medical care to its citizens. Please know we are prepared to take all actions necessary to protect this much-needed, life-saving resource.”
Denton Town Council Member Keith Johnson posted his view, saying, “Support the County Commissioners and join maintaining Trooper 6 in Easton. The MSP helicopter performs countless lifesaving missions every year and sometimes daily.”

Among the items cut from the budget:
• $131 million in higher education funds, including money for the University System of Maryland and community colleges
• $1.6 million in funding for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
• $2.5 million for the Office of Attorney General, including money for positions aimed at prosecuting violent crime in Baltimore.