Life in Maryland has gotten a little more dangerous.
The reason: a cutback in the state's Med-Evac emergency helicopter program announced yesterday by the governor in the latest round of budget cuts.
"In my opinion, it's going to adversely impact public safety," said Maj. Charles R. Hutchins, commander of the State Police Aviation Division.
Two of the state's eight Med-Evac helicopter centers were closed on Monday, one in Centreville on the Eastern Shore and one in Montgomery County. The service was also eliminated statewide from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.
The cutback is expected to eliminate 22 jobs. It can also mean an increase in the time it takes to reach an emergency scene and move the victim to a regional trauma center.
"There will be increased response times and, inevitably, that's going to impact the outcomes of some of the people we're transporting," said Hutchins.
The politically popular Med-Evac system is considered a national model for quick-response emergency services that get critically injured people to hospitals that specialize in trauma cases.
"I've got two grandchildren who live within a mile of the hangar here," said Cpl. Michael L. Ptaszynski, who until Monday 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."
TFC Robert Faul, a 22-year veteran who is losing his job as a medic in Centreville, said the police agency "is going down the tubes as a result of political football."