Western Hampshire County’s closest medical helicopter will no longer be available nights.
But, 2 rescue squad leaders lament, the helicopter was already out of reach for them anyway.
The Maryland State Police said Friday that Trooper 5, the chopper that operates out of Cumberland’s regional airport, will no longer fly between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. because of a pilot shortage.
“Trooper 5 gets to us in 5 to 8 minutes at most, depending on where the particular accident or medical problem is,” said Donna Steward of the Springfield Rescue Squad.
The trouble is, Medcom, the services that dispatches helicopters, almost always calls in Healthnet 8 from Martinsburg, Healthnet 4 from Morgantown or Aircare 4 from Front Royal, Va.
“Trooper 5 can be here in half the time it takes Aircare 4 or Healthnet 4 or 8 longer to get here,” Steward said.
“Medcom is run by WVU,” noted Romney Rescue Squad Chief Donnie Smith, “and the 2 Healthnet helicopters operate out of WVU Medical facilities.”
“They contact whoever they want,” Smith said. “Most of the time they send their own Healthnet, which works, but is rarely the closest.”
Trooper 5’s pilot woes came when 1 of the 6 pilots took an airline job. The service requires 2 pilots on each of its 12-hour shifts––which can’t be covered by just 5 people.
Maryland officials don’t have a timeline for restoring 24-hour service. The shortage is systemwide in the state. The medevac service is authorized for 70 pilots, but currently only has around 50. o