Trooper First Class Robert Faul is losing his job as a medic with the Maryland State Police Med-Evac emergency helicopter program, and he feels betrayed.
"I think the Maryland State Police is going down the tubes as a result of political football," said Faul, a 22-year veteran trooper who was told yesterday that the state will close the Centreville Med-Evac operation where he works.
And even if the state backs off from that plan, employee relations may never be the same.
"They've destroyed the trust that I've worked for," said Faul. "I would not work for the Maryland State Police and the Aviation Division again, because I have no faith in them."
Faul echoes the bitterness felt by other medics and pilots who were grounded by what they see as political warfare between the governor and state legislature.
As things stand now, more than 100 State Police employees will be out of work Nov. 5, as the state curtails Med-Evac operations and closes hangars and State Police barracks to save money.
The politically popular Med-Evac system, developed in conjunction with the Shock Trauma center at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, is considered a national model for quick-response emergency services that get critically injured people to hospitals that specialize in trauma cases.
Prior to the announced cuts, the system had eight flight centers around the state, at Andrews Air Force Base, Norwood (Montgomery County), Frederick, Cumberland, Martin State Airport, Centreville, Salisbury and Patuxent River Naval Air Station.
In 1990, the system transported 4,300 patients statewide and flew 9,000 missions, including police support and rescue flights.
Before the cuts, the maximum flight time to any regional trauma center was 20 minutes, but officials said that will probably increase.
Med-Evac pilots and medics say they are being used as pawns in the battle over the state budget -- and warn that the public will be hurt.
"I've got two grandchildren who live within a mile of the hangar here," said Cpl. Michael L. Ptaszynski, who until yesterday piloted Centreville's sole emergency helicopter. "And I worry about them. If they're in an accident, the aircraft is not going to be available."
Ptaszynski said the Centreville Med-Evac operation is crucial because there is no trauma center on the upper Eastern Shore. Serious cases must be flown to Baltimore or to Peninsula General Hospital in Salisbury.
L He also feels betrayed by the way the budget cuts were made.
"The senior people on this job can't trust anybody anymore," said Ptaszynski. "You spend your life going by the rules -- and then they throw the rules out."
The feeling was much the same at the Norwood Med-Evac
center in Montgomery County, which also would be cut under the state's plan.
"I'm disappointed and feel betrayed like everyone else who's been let go," said Trooper First Class Vernon Daley, a pilot at Norwood.
A former Baltimore County police officer, Daley left an 11-year stint as a pilot in Palm Beach County, Fla., to became a Maryland Med-Evac pilot.
Daley said the $4 million projected savings from a Med-Evac cutback "is a drop in the bucket." The harm could be serious, he said. "People could die. People are going to suffer."
The cuts will leave one of the nation's busiest Med-Evac %J operations without adequate coverage in the early-morning hours, warned Trooper First Class Eric Smothers, a flight paramedic at Norwood.
He also said workers feel bitter about the way they were treated.
"The guys here are giving 110 percent, 150 percent every time we go out the door to save somebody," he said. "I think it stinks."
These are the cuts in aid to metropolitan local governments proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer today.
Anne Arundel ... $9.3 million
Balto. Co. .. .. 17.5 million
Balto. City ... 16.2 million
Carroll ... ... 2.2 million
Harford ... ... 3.7 million
Howard ... ... 3.7 million