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Lee County looking at options to restart Medstar

Lee County looking at options to restart Medstar

By Liza Fernandez. CREATED Nov 6, 2012

LEE COUNTY, Fla - Lee County leaders are looking at all the options for getting the troubled Medstar program back in the air.

The air ambulance was grounded 2 months ago after it was discovered the program did not meet federal regulations, and today county commissioners are moving forward with plans to resuscitate the life-saving program.

"We're going to look at everything. I think we need to make sure that public safety is number one,  and that's what we've always said, " says Commissioner John Manning. 

The county will look into restarting the program itself, but commissioners also voted to send out for bids that would privatize Medstar and for proposals on a public-private partnership. 

"What is the harm in looking at proposals that have never been looked at in the history of the county," asks Commissioner Frank Mann. 

The privatization idea isn't so popular with Commissioner Ray Judah dissenting and Commissioner Brian Bigelow calling in sick.

Bigelow writing, in part, in an email: "The dysfunctional state of our county government... and its downward spiral of leadership... is of grave concern to me."

Former Medstar employees voicing concerns over privatization as well.

"The underlying push from the parent company is always on profit," says Dan Ceresa, a Medstar paramedic who was reassigned.

Others warn once the county goes private, it's hard to restart a public program.

"...And then what does the county do? [It's not] going to suddenly invest in buying a new helicopter, hiring new pilots, training them from scratch, coming up with a 135 certificate," adds fired Medstar pilot "Mac" McAllister. 

Bottom line say those against privatization, is patients suffer because they can end up paying twice as much or more than a public service.

Commissioners will revisit the issue in 30 days.

Liza Fernandez

Liza Fernandez

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Liza Fernandez is a reporter and weekend forecaster for the 10 p.m. news.