CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A pilot shortage is forcing Chesterfield to cut back hours on MedFlight, a free air ambulance service for patients.
Virginia State Police (VSP) recently announced operational changes to their MedFlight program due to a lack of pilots. Instead of operating for 24 hours, they will operate 16 hours a day from 8 a.m. to midnight. The temporary hour change took effect Sunday, July 24.
The agency is now looking to fill four pilot positions at the Chesterfield and Abingdon aviation bases.
State police said it takes about one year to get fully trained and certified to fly an aircraft.
The hour change will remain in effect until these new pilots are qualified and can fully participate in the program. Once they are ready to take off, the 24-hour operation will resume.
Julian Walker, the vice president of communications for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, said medical professionals are monitoring the situation for any direct impact on patients.
“Certainly, anytime that you have a staffing shortage that impacts public safety which also has an impact on public health that’s something that’s a concern,” Walker said.
Walker said some area hospitals have their own air ambulance services, which could supplement the hours that VSP’s MedFlight isn’t available.
State police added that private entities can sufficiently handle service calls, too.
“This is a system that works comprehensively,” Walker said. “That works together, that involves fire and EMS, that involves law enforcement and state police, that involves healthcare providers.”
The likelihood of a patient being transferred by State Police’s air ambulance services instead of by local hospital services is dependent on several circumstances.
“Depending on the acuity and the severity of a particular patient’s injuries, as well as the location in the commonwealth where that individual was injured, all of those are going to be factors that determine where the patient is transported,” Walker said.
More information on the open pilot positions can be found on Jobs.Virginia.Gov