In the 2022 budget, the province aims to expand health care capacity by doubling STARS funding from $7 to $14 million. The government says they will cover nearly half of STARS base operating costs, up from 23 per cent. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)

In the 2022 budget, the province aims to expand health care capacity by doubling STARS funding from $7 to $14 million. The government says they will cover nearly half of STARS base operating costs, up from 23 per cent. (Photo contributed by Rocky Mountain House RCMP)

Province doubles funding for STARS

The province announced Friday more funding for STARS to help address crucial care for Albertans.

In the 2022 budget, the province aims to expand health care capacity by doubling STARS funding from $7 to $14 million. The government says they will cover nearly half of STARS base operating costs, up from 23 per cent.

“This significant increase in investment will allow STARS’ highly specialized medical crews to continue serving Albertans, especially in rural communities,” said premier Jason Kenney in a press release.

“The additional support for helicopter air ambulance services is part of delivering on our commitment to provide Albertans with a stronger and resilient health system that can meet the needs of Albertans when and where they need that care.”

According to the release, in 2019-20, STARS flew 1,255 missions, of which about 92.6 per cent of all helicopter air ambulance missions.

STARS covers 90 per cent of Alberta’s rural and remote population without refuelling from its three base locations in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie.

The release also states that helicopter air ambulances respond to a relatively small number of calls in the context of all EMS calls – 0.2 per cent – the ability to move patients from scenes of accidents or between facilities to a higher level of care ensures the best possible care to Albertans.

“Helicopter air ambulance service, along with ground ambulances and fixed-wing air ambulance, are critical components of the EMS system in Alberta and one of the ways we are able to provide safe, reliable and timely service to rural and remote communities,” said Darren Sandbeck, chief paramedic and senior provincial director, Alberta Health Services EMS.

“EMS looks forward to continuing the strong working relationship we have enjoyed for many years with STARS in the service of Albertans.”

The release also noted that the Alberta EMS Provincial Advisory Committee is developing recommendations to address EMS system pressures. A subcommittee that includes key partners will focus on further strengthening air ambulance services. An independent review to further improve the EMS dispatch system will also include air ambulance dispatch processes, and is expected to be complete by fall 2022.