Southern Alberta air ambulance operation in jeopardy

MEDICINE HAT — More than 50 communities in southeastern Alberta could lose air ambulance service as soon as next month.

MEDICINE HAT — More than 50 communities in southeastern Alberta could lose air ambulance service as soon as next month.

The Southern Alberta MedicAir Society says that’s because fundraising shortfalls may force it to ground its helicopter airlift operation, also known as HALO.

Society chairman Gerry Gaede says even with generous community and corporate sponsors, MedicAir was unable to secure the big donors they were hoping for.

The service operates in the former Palliser Health Region, which includes Medicine Hat, Brooks, Foremost and Canadian Forces Base Suffield.

Since it started up in July 2007, the service has responded to approximately 60 emergency situations in southern Alberta.

However, the cost to operate it is $70,000 a month because, like a fire station, the helicopter must be ready to respond at all times.

Unlike helicopters operated by the Alberta Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, also known as STARS, the southern Alberta service is not funded by the provincial government.

The province pays STARS approximately $4 million each year and that organization raises an additional $32 million annually.

Gaede says his society has had only moderate success in educating the public about the difference between the two groups.

“I always say STARS does great things for 90 per cent of the province but we happen to live in the 10 per cent where they don’t,” said Jodi Churla, executive director of the MedicAir.

STARS is only dispatched to an incident if they can reach the area faster than a ground crew.

Not only would STARS face time constraints responding to a call in southern Alberta, but they do not have a long-range helicopter and would be unable to make the trip without having to stop and refuel.

This summer has seen a number of horrific highway accidents and it’s sad to know the group capable of providing fast medical response is now in jeopardy, Churla added.

If HALO services are discontinued, residents in the southern Alberta corner will again be serviced strictly by ground ambulance.

“It’s unfortunate that there isn’t government funding because it doesn’t matter what it is, we seem to be the forgotten corner,” said Churla.

(Medicine Hat News)

Just Posted

Avid Penhold climber Catlin Hannah’s death a reminder of the dangers of scrambling

Hannah never returned from his Mount Smuts attempt on Aug. 12.

Children, elderly at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

VANCOUVER — Thick smoke blanketing British Columbia communities far from any flames… Continue reading

Trudeau: no apologies for heckler encounter, pledges to call out ‘hate speech’

OTTAWA — Hate speech and the politics of division are creating a… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP charge woman with drug trafficking

Rocky Mountain House RCMP have charged a woman with drug trafficking after… Continue reading

Anti-poverty strategy will aim for 50 per cent cut in low-income rates: source

OTTAWA — A new plan to help low-income Canadians will set a… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the… Continue reading

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month