Battle On To Save Air Trooper Service

Battle On To Save Air Trooper Service
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — With a decision on possibly eliminating one of the Maryland State Police (MSP) Aviation medevac units on the Eastern Shore still looming, the local area’s state senator last week fired off a letter requesting a reverse in the proposed budget cut.

During its July meeting, the state’s Board of Public Works (BPW) considered several significant budget cuts in the wake of anticipated revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19. The BPW is considering grounding either Trooper 4, which provides critical medevac services to the lower shore for all manner of medical emergencies, or the Trooper 6 unit in Easton. The potential savings to the state include $1.3 million from reduced aviation insurance, maintenance and overtime associated with closing one of the MSP Aviation bases on the shore and selling one of the helicopters, along with another $490,000 in estimated fuel and maintenance savings in the aviation division.

The proposed closure of one the MSP Aviation bases on the shore, including potentially Trooper 4, is just one of the budget cuts on the table for the BPW and nothing has been finalized. MSP officials have said there is an independent helicopter-basing study underway on which the BPW could base its decision. The results of the study are expected later this summer.

“As the state senator representing all of Worcester, Somerset including Smith Island, and half of Wicomico County, I am well aware of the superior emergency life-saving airborne medical services that have been provided over the years by Trooper 4 in Salisbury and Trooper 6 in Easton,” State Senator Mary Beth Carozza said. “The possible budget cuts to the Eastern Shore’s MSP medevac services truly would have a life-threatening impact to my constituents and other shore residents, including those living in remote, rural areas of the shore.”

As a Republican and fiscal conservative, Carozza said in the letter she appreciates the need for cuts to the state budget considering the anticipated revenue shortfalls related to COVID-19 and its impact on the economy. However, Carozza said eliminating one of the MSP Aviation’s medevac stations and helicopters on the Eastern Shore was not the place to scrimp and save.

“I understand in the current fiscal COVID-19 environment that cuts to Maryland’s budget are inevitable,” she wrote. “However, I understand there are other professional analyses that have identified alternative savings rather than making detrimental, life-threatening cuts to the critical services provided by Trooper 4 and Trooper 6 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. On behalf of my constituents and in strong support of overall public safety, I urge you to reject any budget cuts or proposals that would threaten the life-saving services of MSP Aviation on the shore.”

A coalition of Eastern Shore representatives in Annapolis echoed those sentiments in an email to state officials.

“Obviously, losing a medevac aviation unit and potentially having to depend on units from other parts of the state would not only be detrimental, but life-threatening to the citizens on the Eastern Shore,” it reads. “Quite simply, the Eastern Shore is not the area to scale back healthcare services for the purpose of statewide budget cuts.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.