Bill addresses emergency flights
Lawmakers want $600,000 to help provide for the suspension of Army helicopter medevacs
House and Senate lawmakers are asking for $600,000 in seed money to help keep emergency helicopters flying on Oahu.
That's after the Army announced last week that it will suspend its Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic evacuation services April 1, after 32 years in rural Oahu.
The 12 Black Hawk helicopters used for the service will then begin training for a deployment to Iraq this summer and be unavailable until at least October 2007.
"What we wanted to do is let the public know that the Legislature has considered this issue for a while now and we want to do something about it," said Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea).
The $600,000 in cash would go to the state Department of Health to develop a new contract with another agency or U.S. military unit to provide the service.
Last year, the Army helicopters made 80 medical flights, a fourth of which were emergencies.
While lawmakers anticipated the deployment and work to find a replacement service has already begun, they could not guarantee that there would not be a lapse in services.
Money under the bill would not be available until July 1, the first day of fiscal year 2007.
"What we want to do is at least begin that dialogue between the administration and the Legislature," Bunda said.
Between 1974 and 2004, the Army saved Oahu taxpayers an estimated $91 million by transporting 7,000 patients on 6,000 emergency medical flights, according to the Army.
As the bill works its way through the Legislature, lawmakers may also look for ways to extend the service to neighboring Kauai, said Senate Health Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena).