Cutting Maryland's emergency medicine

Growing deficit: Without fee increase, statewide EMS system must reduce rescue efforts.

January 22, 2001

THINK OF IT as an insurance policy. The extra $8 you pay on your vehicle registration buys one of the nation's best statewide emergency medical systems in case you, a loved one or a friend is badly injured in an accident.

That insurance policy, though, is about to lapse. The money raised from this surcharge on Maryland cars and trucks - about $36 million -isn't enough any longer to support a comprehensive emergency medical services network.

Unless the General Assembly finds additional funds, there will be a 15-percent cutback in the statewide EMS system, which includes everything from MedEvac helicopters, paramedics, fire and rescue equipment and the renowned Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

That could have dire consequences, sometimes in life-or-death situations.

Without more funds, one of the state's MedEvac helicopter sections would be closed, cutting flight time statewide by 500 hours.

Training for 4,000 EMS fire and rescue personnel would be eliminated. Purchase of life-saving defibrillators would end.

Funds for new fire and rescue apparatus would be curtailed.

Nursing cuts at Shock Trauma Center would require turning away critically injured accident victims, who would be flown to hospitals that don't specialize in trauma care.

This scenario is unacceptable. Maryland's EMS system must continue to operate at current levels and be able to buy state-of-the-art equipment.

Legislative leaders are backing a $3 increase in the vehicle registration surcharge, to $11 a year. No one likes to pay higher fees, but this one comes with solid benefits. Such an increase is enough to support the state's EMS system for the next 12 years.

Approval of this reliable revenue source would reward all citizens who use Maryland's roads. It's a security blanket against highway calamities.

Legislators have an obligation to support the EMS network. It saves lives. That's why this is one fee increase they should have no trouble explaining to constituents.

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