Why Lee County EMS MEDSTAR Helicopter Program was Suspended…...The FACTS!

Get Involved!  Demand EMS Management be held Accountable!  No More Mistruths, Corruption and Mismanagement!

"The Lie that Started it all Reiterated"

From: Deputy Director/ EMS Chief Kim Dickerson
To: County Commissioners
Date: 09-06-2012
In August, we determined that the current management and staff configuration at MEDSTAR would not meet our goal in operating a program based on national accreditation standards. The Director of Flight Operations was terminated. Without a Director of Flight Operations and the Chief Pilot position vacant, flight operations could not continue under our Part 135 Certificate.  
Entire Email

For nearly three weeks since the MEDSTAR shutdown, County and EMS managers are still not telling the truth why MEDSTAR was shutdown.  It wasn't until AFTER the program was shutdown that the inappropriate billing came to light.  We have provided clear, documented proof on this site showing these claims are NOT true!  The taxpayers need to demand County Commissioners hold these managers accountable and reinstate the MEDSTAR program immediately!

This continues to be a blatant violation of Lee County Policy 101- Behavior of Employees, paragraph 2 subsection (v) "Use of lies, dishonesty, and/or misrepresentation in the workplace".  Link to Policy 101


On Tuesday, August 21th, 2012 Lee County issued a press release announcing that it had suspended its helicopter air ambulance and critical care program to seek a voluntary national accreditation.  During the suspension of the program, the Director of Operations was terminated along with three other pilots and the 12 flight paramedics were re-assigned to ground operations to staff ambulances. 

Lee County EMS MEDSTAR helicopter program is one of the oldest in the United States, recently celebrating its 36 year of service.  In 2007, MEDSTAR started providing critical care transport by helicopter and by ground using a specialized ground ambulance.  Since the inception of the critical care program, no clinical deficiencies have been reported, nor was any attempt made to correct any perceived deficiencies by EMS Management.  The first indication of clinical concerns came during TV news coverage the afternoon following the program suspension.

Under EMS Chief Dickerson, this is the second time MEDSTAR operations have been suspended. In July 2011, Chief Dickerson called a six week long “Safety Stand-Down”, during which industry experts were contracted to recommend program improvements to management.  These expert recommendations have never been discussed nor have any modifications been made to the program in the year following.

The truth behind why all the program’s line pilots were laid-off instead of just terminating the Director of Operations is simple....EMS Management wanted to remove the company trainer/ check airman pilot without firing him to avoid a federal whistle blower lawsuit.  Prior to the program's suspension, the company trainer/ check airman pilot had been suspended for THREE MONTHS with pay after reporting illegal training/ checkrides to the FAA.  While suspended with pay, his position was filled by other pilots on overtime (time and half).  Read the email exchange between Pilot McAllister, EMS Management and the FAA for yourself here

Continue reading below to learn more about the mistruths being told by EMS Management and the increasing public outcry in the media.

The TRUTH Behind the CLAIMS

CLAIM #1:  “The current MEDSTAR program could not obtain national accreditation without a nurse”

TRUTH #1:  Page 6, 7, 8 & 28 of the CAMTs 8th Edition Accreditation Standards allows for “alternative team composition; for example paramedic-led teams”.  The removed MEDSTAR team met and in some instances exceeded the accreditation requirements.  View a free copy at www.camts.org/04_8th_Edition_1_.pdf.  In addition, Collier County’s helicopter currently operates with two paramedics and is still providing service to Lee County.

CLAIM #2:  Because the MEDSTAR Director of Operations was terminated, the other three pilots had to be terminated per the FAA”.

TRUTH #2:  With the termination of the Director of Operations, MEDSTAR could have continued to operate legally under Part 91 of the FAA Federal Aviation Regulations until a replacement Director Pilot was hired.  Lee County could have also appointed an interim Chief Pilot to continue flying under Part 135.  Additional, two of three pilots are state certified EMTs, they could have also been re-assigned to an ambulance until the rebuild was complete.  All three terminated pilots are ARMY VETERANS, two of which just servED in IRAQ!  They were the “right mix” to risk their lives for our freedom, but no longer the “right mix” to fly Lee County’s helicopters according to Chief Dickerson and Director Wilson?

CLAIM #3:  “The team that we had in place, we didn’t feel it was the right team to get us where we wanted to go; however, the pilots and flight paramedics can reapply when that accreditation goal is achieved”.

TRUTH #3:  The former MEDSTAR team of pilots and flight paramedics collectively possessed many of the industries top ratings...from all the pilots being rated as helicopter Air Transport Pilots to the flight paramedics being board certified in flight and critical care medicine.

NEW 09-15-2012!

CLAIM #4:  On September 11, 2012, County Manager Karen Hawes presented to the Board of County Commissioners.  In her presentation, Ms. Hawes stated that on August 17th when she agreed to the shutdown of the MEDSTAR program that: “Based on the information that I received- and the apparent inability, for whatever reasons, to as yet get the pilots certified- I agreed that for the health, safety and welfare of our residents that the MEDSTAR operations would be temporarily suspended”.

TRUTH #4:  The first of two FAA checkrides were scheduled for August 21st, the day the program was shutdown.  Had this checkride been completed, Lee County could have began legal billing for the aircraft in question that day!  EMS Management knowing the checkride was schedule on the day of the planned shutdown, directed former Director of Aviation Operations Rob Fulton to cancel the checkride the day before the shutdown.  Additionally, the pilots not being certified to bill under Part 135 was NOT a "health, safety and welfare" issue, simply a billing issue.  The backup helicopter Lee County has operated for over 20 years was legal to bill at the Part 135 rate.  Whenever a new aircraft is purchased and at recurrent intervals thereafter, pilots are required by the FAA to perform 3-4 hours of training and a checkride.  The aircraft in question was new to Lee County.  Had Lee County not conducted the "Safety Stand-down" the year prior and suspended its only FAA designated company instructor pilot, the required new aircraft training and checkrides could have been completed over a year ago.

Recent Files

  • 2000 Vote of No Conf - Copy.pdf   121k - Sep 27, 2012, 8:10 AM by We TheEmployees (v1)
    ‎Vote of No Confidence from 2000 against Public Safety Director John Wilson and retired Deputy Director/ EMS Chief Chris Hansen.‎
  • MEDSTAR Weekly Update 9-1-12 - Copy.pdf   147k - Sep 22, 2012, 2:53 PM by We TheEmployees (v1)
    ‎County Manager Karen Hawes' 2nd Friday MEDSTAR update release.  ‎
  • Lee County Policy 101 - Copy.pdf   69k - Sep 22, 2012, 2:53 PM by We TheEmployees (v1)
    ‎Copy of Lee County Policy 101, paragraph 2 "Prohibited Conduct"- subsection (v) "Use of lies, dishonestly, and/or misrepresentation in the workplace"‎
  • corkscrew us41 - Copy.pdf   355k - Sep 21, 2012, 2:30 PM by We TheEmployees (v1)
    ‎Chief Dickerson reacting and attempting to defend why the fire departments request for a helicopter on an auto accident was not justified. See our facebook page for more explanation and taxpayers reaction.‎
  • FAA Intermedix email - Copy.pdf   81k - Sep 19, 2012, 7:29 PM by We TheEmployees (v1)
    ‎Letter from the FAA, dated May 4, 2012, to Intermedix (Lee County EMS billing vendor) providing legal interpretation that accepting payment for any flight requires operations under at least a part 119 certificate. This clearly outlined that charging for any flight under part 91 was not legal. Intermedix requested this interpretation on January 23, 2012. ‎
Showing 5 files from page Files.

What the Private Helicopter Costs

With the exception of Collier County’s helicopter, the other two private companies that EMS Management has reported will be providing coverage are FOR-PROFIT and charge up to $20,000 per transport.  Your tax dollars that pay for MEDSTAR do NOT cover these costs….you are still paying for MEDSTAR even while it is suspended and will pay EXTRA if transported by one of the private helicopters!

Accreditation Companies

“Accreditation” is something issued by a private, commonly for-profit company, when an organization meets their company’s “standards”.  Helicopter medical transport accreditation is voluntary, expensive and will offers no advantage to MEDSTAR.  In an ironic twist, the three private companies and county program that are currently covering Lee County while MEDSTAR is suspended are NOT accredited!

When CAMTs (the accreditation company cited by Chief Dickerson) was contact by the Naples Daily News regarding the MEDSTAR suspension, they commented…”I do not understand why county EMS officials decided to  suspend the entire operation when they intended to purse the national ranking”, along with…”I don’t know what the purpose of that is, I’ve never heard of that”.  Even the private accreditation company does not support Chief Dickerson and Director Wilsons actions!

Checkout our Facebook Page after your sign the petition!

Recent Announcements

  • Former Public Safety official talks about Medstar mess LEE COUNTY, Fla.- J.A. Stakenburg, former chief of operations for Lee County Emergency Management, is speaking on the record for the first time about the Medstar mess. He says: the county is capable of running the medical flight program.  "There were some good people in that program. It can be county-run. But it will take a change in the culture in Public Safety. It may take some new people at the top, to get it running properly," he told WINK News.  Stakenburg worked for Lee for five and a half years. He quit last spring, after in-fighting with now retired director John Wilson.  "There was such a negative atmosphere in that division. If you made a suggestion ...
    Posted Oct 1, 2012, 5:19 PM by We TheEmployees
  • BREAKING NBC-2 NEWS!!! FORT MYERS, FL - The director of Lee County EMS has retired and the deputy director has been placed on administrative leave in the latest fallout from the MEDSTAR shutdown fiasco.  The county's medical helicopter program was abruptly shuttered in mid-August, with administrators claiming at the time that it was being done to focus on accreditation.  But since that story, information about $3 million of improper billing and personnel issues has surfaced, casting doubt on the accreditation claim.  County Manager Karen Hawes announced the change in leadership at the agency an email reading:This is to inform you that Public Safety Director John Wilson retired today after 27 years of service to Lee County.John has served the county ...
    Posted Sep 28, 2012, 8:14 AM by We TheEmployees
  • NBC-2 Investigator Karla Ray obtains email from PR firm on how to spin MEDSTAR mess Entire email hereNBC-2 Story here
    Posted Sep 27, 2012, 10:13 AM by We TheEmployees
  • Website Updated A new page called "More Information" has been added which offer more explanation and facts regarding various aspect of the MEDSTAR program.  The Management Profile page has also been updated with a link to a Vote of No Confidence from 2000 along with additional details received regarding involvement from a Lee Memorial Health Systems manager.  Keep tabs on our facebook page for real-time developments.   Also checkout a new facebook page called "Citizens for MEDSTAR" that was started by a group of citizens with members from a five county region that MEDSTAR once provided service for.
    Posted Sep 27, 2012, 9:55 AM by We TheEmployees
  • Concerned citizens start a "Citizens for MEDSTAR" facebook page Concerned citizens start a "Citizens for MEDSTAR" facebook page.  Check it out here!
    Posted Sep 24, 2012, 11:03 AM by We TheEmployees
  • Email from Chief Dickerson to BoCC says fire department was not justified in calling for a helicopter Email posted on SaveMEDSTAR.org from Chief Dickerson to County Commissioners attempting to defend why the request by a local fire departments for a helicopter on a bad auto accident this morning was not justified. Estero Fire Department requested helicopter transport for two patients that were entrapped in a vehicle following impact with a pole. After 12 minutes from being requested, Aeromed advised they were unable to respond due to mechanical problems. Had MEDSTAR not been shutdown, a backup aircraft would have been immediately available if a similar mechanical issue would have happened. Chief Dickerson is attempting, again, to misrepresent the truth. She would like you to believe that a six minute flight verses a 16 minutes for one ...
    Posted Sep 21, 2012, 2:49 PM by We TheEmployees
  • NBC2 Investigators uncover first public safety gap left by MEDSTAR FORT MYERS, FL -The NBC2 Investigators have uncovered the first direct evidence of a public safety gap left by the sudden suspension of Medstar – Lee County's medical helicopter program.  It happened overnight, after two teenagers were seriously injured in an accident at Corkscrew Road and US-41.  We're told Estero Fire arrived on scene three to four minutes after the crash, which investigators believe to be alcohol-related.  At that time, rescuers put Aeromed, the private air helicopter company Lee County is using for emergencies, on standby.  A few minutes later, when they realized how seriously the teens were trapped in the vehicle, Estero Fire called for launch of the chopper.  Aeromed told them they were having mechanical ...
    Posted Sep 21, 2012, 11:46 AM by We TheEmployees
  • Commissioner Bigelow questions if Hawes had authority Commissioner Brian Bigelow said Thursday Lee County’s top staffer violated the very charter that empowers her, as well as the commission, when she put a stop to Medstar.In an email to other commissioners, Bigelow asked the county attorney to show him the “charter language” that authorized County Manager Karen Hawes to eliminate the program outside a public forum and without the commission’s consent.“Medstar was approved and appropriated by the board and can only be undone by an act of the board, not the county manager,” Bigelow said. “She has now committed an act of insubordination by eliminating Medstar.”  Continue Reading
    Posted Sep 21, 2012, 4:00 AM by We TheEmployees
Showing posts 1 - 8 of 34. View more »

SPEAK OUT...It’s Your Tax Dollars and SAFETY

Get involved and demand EMS Management be held accountable for the lies and mismanagement of MEDSTAR and EMS by: 

1. Contacting your County Commissioners:

District 1  John Manning     (239) 533-2224      dist1@leegov.com

District 2  Brian Bigelow      (239) 533-2227      dist2@leegov.com

District 3  Ray Judah             (239) 533-2223      dist3@leegov.com

District 4  Tammy Hall         (239) 533-2226      dist4@leegov.com

District 5  Frank Mann         (239) 533-2225      dist5@leegov.com


2. Get involved, sign the online petition to the Lee County BoCC: