AN EDITORIAL — What should have been a celebration of more than 20 years of helping to save lives will be more of a plea for help this Saturday, April 4 as Eastern Connecticut faces the loss of local LIFE STAR service.
LIFE STAR helicopter service, which began in 1985, is an integral part of regional Emergency Medical Services.
As most people know, LIFE STAR is called to the scene of serious accidents, often arriving at the crash site minutes after receiving the call.
LIFE STAR also transports patients needing immediate care for trauma, cardiac arrest or stroke to larger medical facilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Connecticut has three hospitals designated as Level 1 trauma centers, located in Hartford and New Haven.
LIFE STAR – a “critical care air medical transport service” – is the only critical care helicopter in Connecticut. A LIFE STAR crew consists of a flight nurse, flight respiratory therapist, pilot, mechanic and communication specialist.
The LIFE STAR service operates two American Eurocopter BK-117, twin-engine helicopters 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
One aircraft is based on the rooftop helipad at Hartford Hospital. The other is based at The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.
Loss of one helicopter
More than 1,200 patients a year are transported by Hartford Hospital’s two helicopters – 40 percent of them are flights from Backus Hospital.
However, in the budget proposed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell the $1.39 million subsidy the state provides to Hartford Hospital to operate the $7-million-a-year program would be eliminated.
Flights from Backus Hospital would cease because Hartford Hospital would cut back to one helicopter. According to the LIFE STAR Medical and Program Director Dr. Kenneth J. Robinson, this would mean serving about 40 percent fewer patients, and ceasing most emergency transports in areas outside a certain radius from Hartford.
Currently, flights are made within a 150-mile radius of the two bases in Hartford and Norwich.
State Sen. Edith Prague, at a recent legislative breakfast, urged support for the LIFESTAR program’s funding saying, “In this budget, we need to make decisions about what’s important, what’s critically important, and what’s a matter of life and death… LIFE STAR is a matter of life and death.”
How to show your support
Eastern Connecticut residents are being asked to show support for this program by attending a Save LIFESTAR event at noon on Saturday April 4 at Backus Hospital. The event will celebrate the helicopter’s past and advocate for its future.
There will be testimonials from patients, speeches from local hospital officials and legislators, “Save LIFE STAR” buttons, cake and a cookout.
Of course, another way to show support is to call Gov. Rell’s office at 1-860-566-4840 or (toll free) 1-800-406-1527 (or TDD 1-860-524-7397).
Or send your message to Governor.Rell@ct.gov, or: Gov. M. Jodi Rell, Office of the Governor, State Capitol, 210 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT 06106.
Eastern Connecticut struggles with seeking a balance between economic development that will relieve homeowners from some of the tax burden in rural areas and preservation of the farmlands and the open spaces that make this part of the state so attractive. Nevertheless, these rural areas are perceived as less “needy” than cities like New Haven, Bridgeport or Hartford.
So, it is important for the taxpayers and elected officials in these rural towns to actively protect their resources – and that includes emergency services such as those provided by LIFESTAR.
Posted April 2, 2009