Maryland will purchase three new medical evacuation helicopters this year as part of a plan to keep the response system at University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center among the nation's best, Gov. Martin O'Malley, state police and emergency personnel said yesterday.
Funding for the aircraft had been in doubt after some legislators suggested the spending be postponed during discussions on how to deal with a $1.7 billion budget shortfall during November's special legislative session. Eventually, lawmakers agreed to dedicate $110 million to the State Helicopter Replacement Fund out of revenues from the sales tax increase.
This year's batch of three new helicopters will cost $33.6 million.
"This life-saving equipment will carry thousands of our neighbors who have been badly injured to trauma centers across the state, enhancing the capabilities of our emergency-response teams," O'Malley said at a midday news conference at Martin State Airport, surrounded by gleaming emergency-response vehicles.
Nine of the state's 12 helicopters are almost 18 years old, two are 13 years old and one is eight years old. Since 1970, the fleet of emergency helicopters has flown more than 120,000 people to hospitals for life-saving care, about 5,000 such missions annually. Coupled with the coordinated efforts of emergency responders and doctors, Maryland has one of the finest trauma medical systems in the world, several officials at the news conference said.
"For 38 years, State Police helicopters have provided a vital public safety service to our citizens and in support of all Maryland police departments and EMS providers," said Maryland State Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan. "They are a welcome sight to people who need help and need it fast."