STARS air ambulance helped level out patient loads at hospitals during the fourth COVID-19 wave which sometimes meant transferring patients from Edmonton and Calgary to Red Deer.
“We transported not only out of Red Deer at that time, but we brought patients into Red Deer from other hospitals because the big centres were full,” said STARS chief operating officer Mike Lamacchia.
Lamacchia said transporting critically ill or injured patients for specialized care continued to be the focus for STARS, with the added challenge of helping address capacity issues by moving patients around Alberta.
“We are part of the health system and we will help where we can.”
Lamacchia said statistics show that from January until now, there has also been a significant rate of inter-facility transfers of central Alberta COVID patients. Twenty-one per cent of transfers from Red Deer, Innisfail, Rocky Mountain House and Lacombe were COVID-19 positive patients, or patients suspected of having COVID.
Of the inter-facility transfers involving just Red Deer, 14 per cent of patients were COVID positive or possible COVID patients.
He said the pandemic has been tiring for STARS staff, but there are regular check-ins with frontline crews and breaks when possible.
“We’re two years in just like everyone in the health care system,” Lamacchia said.
STARS flew 1,436 missions in the 2020-21 fiscal year from bases in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie.
STARS touched down most frequently in Lethbridge with 78 missions, followed by 54 in Red Deer, and 41 in Wetaskiwin.
Elsewhere in central Alberta, there were 16 missions to Rocky Mountain House, 15 to Olds, 14 each to Didsbury and Three Hills, 12 to Stettler, 11 to Sunchild First Nation, 10 to Rimbey, nine each to Ponoka and Sundre, eight to Castor, six each to Innisfail and Caroline, five to O’Chiese First Nation, four each to Sylvan Lake and Coronation, three to Lacombe, two each to Maskwacis, Bentley and Bashaw, and one each to Penhold, Nordegg, Gull Lake, Delburne, Cremona, Consort and Clive.