Medical helicopter plagued with problems?
EMS workers say Aeromed has a history of mechanical issues
LEE COUNTY - A matter of life and death! Former EMS workers say Lee County's medical helicopter is literally falling apart, risking the lives of patients in need of life-saving services. Since the county's Medstar helicopter was grounded due to a billing scandal, Aeromed has been hired to take over. But as Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason is finding out, that chopper has a history of mechanical problems.
Aeromed has been hired to respond to critical calls in Lee County. Some EMS workers say private companies are more concerned with profits than they are with protecting the public.
When the Medstar program was grounded last year due to a billing scandal, Lee County hired Aeromed to take over. But its medical helicopter has been plagued with its own problems.
Arnold "Mac" MacAllister: "The thing is they have no commitment to the public safety mission at all."
Arnold "Mac" MacAllister was Medstar's pilot. He still keeps in touch with EMS workers who tell him Aeromed had a meltdown while responding to a call this past weekend.
Arnold "Mac" MacAllister: "When the crew landed the helicopter there, when they got out the door, the sliding door came off the tracks."
Mac says Aeromed responded to a car crash at the corner of Burnt Store and Pine Island Road on Saturday afternoon. He says before the chopper could take off with the patient...the side door fell off.
Arnold "Mac" MacAllister: "It came off enough as to where they couldn't close the door properly so the patient had to be transported by ground."
This isn't the first time Aeromed has had mechanical problems. In September, two teens struck a power pole with their truck in Estero. Both were critically injured. Paramedics requested Aeromed but the chopper was broken....so the teens had to be transported by ground...it took 53 minutes *after* the 9-1-1 call to get both of them to the hospital.
Arnold "Mac" MacAllister: "That's typically what happens when they don't maintain the helicopters adequately."
We wanted to know how well Aeromed maintains its helicopter....we requested those records from the interim county manager....but she told us Aeromed would have to release them. Since Aeromed is a private company, Mac suspects they'll keep their problems private as well.
Arnold "Mac" MacAllister: "I don't think you're going to get any information that's useful out of the county unless you dig for it."
We will request that info from Aeromed --- but when we contacted them in the past we never heard back.
On February 19th county commissioners will vote to decide which company they'll hire to take over for Medstar permanently.