Governor Rell has trimmed a lot of fat on next year's proposed budget.  But one cut is not "flying" so well with local hospitals. The Life Star helicopter program could lose $1.39 million dollars next year.  The change may mean grounding one of the state's two helicopters.

J. Kevin Kinsella, the Vice President of Hartford Hospital says a Life Star helicopter can pick up anyone in the state within twenty minutes. "There isn't any town in the state of Connecticut that hasn't utilized this service. We've been open now for thirty years."

Between 1,100 and 1,200 people are transported by a Life Star each year. Hartford Hospital runs the program, but the helicopter serves the entire state, flying patients to the nearest level-1 trauma center. The state helps fund Life Star which has a $7 million operating budget.  But with Governor Rell's latest round of budget cuts, Kinsella says Life Star may have to ground one of state's the two helicopters. "People don't realize that while we have two helicopters, two aren't always available.  Our helicopters are 25-years old and they need constant maintenance to keep in service.  So often times one is in service while another one is in flight. If you only have one helicopter and it was down for service, you would not have any helicopter to transfer people."

Hartford Hospital has been talking to the legislature trying to get them to put the funds back into the budget. Deputy Secretary Michael Cicchetti of the Office of Policy Management says the decision to cut funding for Life Star was not easy.  "The Life Star program is important.  There's no question about it.  But the state funds only a small portion...in the context of an overall multi-billion dollar deficit it could not be afforded."

Cicchetti says there's still hope the legislature reaches a compromise. "If (funding gets) put back its got to be able to fit in context with the larger budget situation."

In the meantime, one helicopter continues to be stationed at Hartford Hospital.  The other helicopter parks at William W. Backus hospital in Norwich.  There in no word on when the legislature will make a final decision about funding the Life Star program.