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 on something, how to do it better, you became the problem. That happnened to me. My suggestions to John Wilson made me the problem," Stakenburg said. He says, grounding the Medstar choppers in a new hangar, is a slap the taxpayer. "They ought to get what they paid for," he said. The Medstar program has an annual budget of $3 million. It is being funded, even when grounded. Some people are promoting Stakenburg as a possible replacement for Wilson as public safety director. "I have told the county administration that I will be glad to help. I had a number of right ideas, despite what Mr. Wilson wrote of my performance," Stakenburg said. Continue Reading
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 with passion and commitment. His emergency management experience and expertise are valued nationally and his leadership during the recovery from Hurricane Charley in 2004 was exemplary. Also, Deputy Director Kim Dickerson has been placed on paid, administrative leave while the internal review of MedStar operations continues. This is being done in the best interest of Kim and the agency. In the interim, Assistant County Manager Holly Schwartz will serve as Acting Public Safety Director. Deputy Chief Ground EMS Operations Manager Scott Tuttle will serve as Acting Deputy Public Safety Director.
NBC-2 Investigator Karla Ray first broke this story.
Continue Reading for updates.
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.
Concerned citizens start a "Citizens for MEDSTAR" facebook page. Check it out here!
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 be
en 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 patient and 22 minutes for the other would not have impact patient care. Additionally, Chief Dickerson is leaving out the expanded scope of care, equipment and medication that was onboard MEDSTAR that EMS Management removed recently from EMS ground ambulances. Had MEDSTAR not been shutdown and not on another patient flight, it would have been on scene waiting when the first patient was extricated from the vehicle; less than 10 minutes later the patient would have been at Lee Memorial Trauma Center…period! See our Facebook Page for taxpayer reaction and to post your thoughts! Email can be view here.
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 issues, and had to restart the chopper. After a second
attempt, Aeromed was taken out of service.
Then, Lee County Dispatch advised it would try Bayflight - the medical
chopper out of St. Petersburg. But crews on the ground advised it would take
them too long to respond. Finally
Collier County was called. It launched its Medflight chopper, but it was called
off because pilots couldn't give an ETA to the scene. At that point - roughly 29 minutes after the
first chopper was called -
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
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. Hopefully the Lee Clerk of Clerks audit will examine Lee County EMS billing practices for any time Lee County operated under part 91; according to the MEDSTAR website here, part 135 certificate was obtained in April 2005. Links to the letter are below.
Lee County Manager Karen Hawes was questioned by the media follower the BoCC meeting where she identified herself as the primary media contact. During media questioning, County Manager Hawes was unable to answer simple questions regarding if/ why Director of Flight Operations Rob Fulton was terminated and what intermediate steps were taken before the shutdown. Towards the end of the interview, County Manager Hawes becomes hostile to reporters when she is unable to articulate any meaningful response to their questions. Click YouTube Video to watch for yourself.