Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Letter from Jerry

Email from Jerry Costello:

I wanted to drop you a note to update you on legislative matters that may be of interest.
The House Aviation Subcommittee recently held a hearing to examine the oversight of helicopter medical services (HEMS), looking particularly at the safety and medical aspects of the industry. In 2005 I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the status of air ambulance safety, and its report was published in 2007. This decade, the HEMS industry has seen dramatic growth, and fatal air ambulance accidents reached an all-time high between October 2007 and December 2008.
The Subcommittee heard testimony from Congressman John Salazar (D-CO) regarding legislation he has introduced regarding air ambulance safety, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), GAO and various stakeholder organizations. Among the concerns raised was FAA implementation of safety improvements recommended by the NTSB, and the balance between DOT and state regulation of the HEMS industry. The latter included a discussion of the perceived impacts of H.R. 978, legislation sponsored by Aviation Subcommittee member Jason Altmire (D-PA), which would expand states’ authority to regulate HEMS operations.
We addressed many important issues in this hearing and we will continue to work on them. Helicopter air ambulance flights can make the difference between life and death for patients, and we need to make their operations as safe as possible and help patients receive the highest quality care. However, the regulatory issues involved here are not easily parsed, so we need to be sure that in our efforts to accomplish this goal we do not create unintended consequences that create additional or different problems. As the GAO found in 2007, more data will help us in this work, and the Subcommittee will continue to work with all involved to address these issues.
If you would like to view the full recap of the hearing, including a webcast, go to the Hearing Archive on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Web site.

You are invited to sign up for future electronic newsletters. Please feel free to forward this message to friends and neighbors you think might be interested in this issue.


Jerry F. Costello
12th District of Illinois

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