Lee County (Fla.) Medstar to Be Turned Over to Private Company

Helicopters and hangar to be sold; County to retain control of ground transport

 

 
 
 

SABINA BHASIN, Naples Daily News | | Wednesday, November 21, 2012


VIDEOS

Multimedia Thumb

Fla. County Relinquishes Control of Medstar to Private Company

Internal mismanagement prompts Lee County (Fla.) officials to relinquish control of air ambulance operations.
more >





Medstar is going private. Well, partially.

In their first move as Lee County commissioners, Cecil Pendergrass and Larry Kiker joined Commissioners John Manning, Frank Mann and Tammy Hall in unanimously agreeing to relinquish control over the county's air ambulance program to a private company.

JEMS.com Full Coverage: Medstar Controversy

The agreement will save the county about $2 million annually, county officials said. It is also expected to bring in money because the county's two helicopters will be sold and its hangar will be leased to a private company, officials said.

The county will continue to handle ground transportation.

In addition to the public-private partnership, county officials also considered keeping Medstar completely county controlled and taking it entirely private. Officials are considering four private companies to take over Medstar helicopter operations.

"We begin with getting money back from the helicopters, we have a chance to reduce the budget by $2 million and we can ensure the program stays in place," Kiker said. "(It's) an all-around win."

County officials suspended Medstar in August after it was revealed the program didn't have all of its federal safety certifications but billed patients more than $3 million for hospital flights. Four employees, including three pilots were let go.

An audit released earlier this month by the county clerk described a dysfunctional program, marked by a lack of oversight, a "silo mentality" and infighting.

As part of the public-private partnership, Medstar's insurance and certifications would be controlled by a private company. The "Part 135" certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, which the county didn't have but needed when it was charging for flights to the hospital, would be dropped.

The FAA is expected to fine the county millions for the certificate violation, but by choosing the public-private model, some of those fees could be dropped or greatly reduced, county officials said.

Some Medstar paramedics and former pilots aren't buying it.

"It's disgusting," said Dan Ceresa, a paramedic. "They're reacting to bad information given to them by the same people who got us into this mess."

As part of the public-private partnership, the county will need 10 more ground ambulances, Assistant County Manager Pete Winton said. Six employees will be hired, and the ground paramedics will remain county employees. But the pilots who were let go, including Arnold McAllister, a flight paramedic and pilot for more than 20 years, may not come back.

McAllister first brought the billing issues to light, right before he was put on administrative leave and ultimately terminated.

"No more contributing to my pension, nothing," McAllister said. "I really don't want to sue, but I have an open and shut case."

The second portion of the clerk of courts investigation into the Medstar shutdown is expected to be completed by early December. It will include a recommended solution that may or may not be a public-private partnership.

By January, commissioners are expected to name a new public safety director. The county is currently sifting through 180 applicants.

Pendergrass described the public-private partnership as "the best thing to do."

"The county is taking action, the people on the ground get to keep their job, the mechanics could make more money not being under county control and we're hiring a new department head," he said. "We're doing the right thing to provide services to the county."



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Fla. County Relinquishes Control of Medstar to Private Company


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, Medstar Controversy, medical helicopter, helicopter EMS, EMS management, air ambulance

 
What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS





 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Simulation-Based Assessment Facilitates Learning & Enhances Clinical Judgment

Simulation is an educational tool that can be used to develop and refine clinical skills of the student in a controlled environment before they progress to becoming practicing clinicians.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

REMSA Programs Helps Reduce Hospital Visits

Community paramedic effort goes into service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

City Official Challenges San Francisco Fire Chief

Ambulance response times among problems noted by city supervisor.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Texas Ambulance Crash

Victoria ambulance collides with civilian vehicle.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Colorado Medics Ditch Pants for Kilts

“Real men do wear kilts.”
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

CO Leak at Illinois School

Girard incident sends over 130 to hospitals.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Hands On September 2014

Who gets thumbs up this month?
More >


Multimedia Thumb

NYC Sept. 11 Anniversary

View images from the ceremony at Ground Zero.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >