Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre remains a busy destination for STARS air ambulance.
In 2018-19, STARS flew 60 missions to Red Deer’s hospital.
Mike Haska, communications director with STARS, said Red Deer is always high on the list for STARS.
“Red Deer is one of our most frequently visited locales. It is serviced by both Calgary and Edmonton. Both bases can fly there,” Haska said.
Other frequent locations visited by STARS included Wetaskiwin with 42 missions, Camrose with 32, Drumheller with 27, St. Paul with 26, Rocky Mountain House with 24, Brooks with 22, Ponoka with 21, and Grovedale with 20 missions.
Elsewhere in central Alberta, STARS flew the following missions: four to Caroline, one to Castor, one to Clive, six to Coronation, one to Elnora, 10 to Innisfail, four to Lacombe, four to Maskwacis, three to Nordegg, one to O’Chiese First Nation, 17 to Olds, two to Rimbey, 13 to Stettler, two to Sunchild First Nation, 16 to Sundre, four to Sylvan Lake, and 13 to Three Hills.
STARS flys an average of five missions per day. About 60 per cent of missions are transfers between facilities, and 40 per cent are to the scenes of patients.
Pilot Phil Haworth said cold temperatures like those being experienced this week do not stop STARS from flying. But the helicopter does remain running so medications and fluids for patients do not freeze. Heated bags and blankets are used for both patients and fluids.
The provincial government pays 20 per cent of STARS annual operating costs and that money goes toward inter-facility transfers.
Haska said a review is underway on the management of helicopter EMS in Alberta, which won’t be finished until the summer.
“For the time being, we’re still operating under the status quo and no change is anticipated,” Haska said.
Eighty per cent of STARS costs are paid through donations and fundraising such as the STARS Lottery. Tickets are now on sale.
STARS patient Stu Wilson, of Calgary, still remembered how the service came to his rescue on Aug. 4, 1997, after he was hit head-on by another driver about 20 kilometres east of Hanna.
He said the driver fell asleep and both vehicles were travelling about 100 km/h.
“It’s not like any fender bender you’ve ever heard. It’s like the world is ending,” said Wilson, 60.
He said Hanna EMS extracted him from his truck. STARS picked him up from Hanna’s hospital, where he was flown to Foothills Hospital in Calgary. He was in surgery the entire night, and later spent three months in a wheelchair while he learned to walk again.