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Medstar helicopter. / news-press.com file photo

Lee County escaped federal fines, because it surrendered the certificate it needed to airlift patients and bill them for flights in the county-owned helicopters.

Assistant County Manager Holly Schwartz said the commission’s decision to give up Medstar’s flight certificate last year, persuaded federal investigator who could have imposed civil penalties for improper billings.

For close to a year, county officials violated federal rules by billing patients without meeting federal safety mandates.

Federal authorities could have fined the county upwards of $1 million for the violations, Commissioner Tammy Hall has said.

But in November, Lee County commissioners decided to hand over the county’s flight certificate, effectively ending the county’s medical air lift program, Medstar.
The FAA still has an open enforcement action against the county for its failure to employ a chief pilot.

A Washington D.C.-based attorney the county contracted to handle its FAA problems told Sdchwartz the county won’t face fines for that infraction, Schwartz said.

County staff has yet to select a private company to replace Medstar.

Tampa-based Aeromed was tapped to step-in on a temporary basis

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