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The Save Our medevac Service society has been formed by several medical doctors, medevac pilots and rural advocates. We have come together to protect quality medevac air ambulance services in Alberta and northern Canada.
Our goal is to have air ambulances continue to land at the City Centre Airport until proper arrangements are in place to ensure that your family and your community will continue to receive the same timely access to tertiary care that is available today. No such arrangements are yet in place.
STAY UP TO DATE
Go to our Facebook page for regular updates and to join the conversation.
Telephone Town Hall Tapes:
If you missed the telephone town hall meetings that occurred on February 25th and 26th you can listen to them here.
Click here to listen to the medical doctors explain how the relocation of medevac services will put lives at risk: http://saveourmedevac.ca/audio/SOM-Alberta_2-25-13_recording.mp3
Click here to listen to the politicians explain why they think everything will be okay: http://saveourmedevac.ca/audio/Government%20Town%20Hall%20Recording.mp3
REMEMBER to read the fact sheet at the link below to better understand how badly the government has its facts wrong on medevac. Some quick examples:
- Health Minister Horne said that all critical patients are delivered by STARS which is completely false – STARS does not fly to all regions in the north, flies at half the speed of fixed-wing, etc – it is frightening that the Minister of Health is so badly misinformed
- Municipal Affairs Minister Griffiths said that it would cost billions to expropriate the City Centre Airport lands but the City’s own documents show that expropriating the land needed to keep the medevac landing would only cost $114 to $161 million (Minister Griffiths later admitted in the call that he really didn’t know what it would cost but he wasn’t changing his mind.)
- AHS Dr. MacKenzie claimed that it takes 30 mins to get from the Calgary International Airport to the Foothills Hospital whereas the independent study done by the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) found that it only takes 18 mins. The HQCA concluded that the relocation out to the Edmonton International Airport would take northern medevac services from being the best in Canada to the worst.
The government claims that the STARS helicopter could be used to solve the problem by having the STARS air crew use the Edmonton-based helicopter to shuttle patients from fixed wing air ambulances landing at the Edmonton International Airport to Edmonton’s tertiary hospitals. However, burdening STARS with shuttling upward of an additional 1,800 time-sensitive patients annually–5 a day–is just not feasible and will cause delays in patients getting to urgent care.
Shifting STARS’ role over to an airport shuttle service also takes away from STARS primary mission of responding to critical accidents and other emergencies in the Edmonton region.
Furthermore, there are speed and range limitations with helicopters relative to the speed and distance of fixed-wing air ambulances. Helicopters fly at half the speed of fixed wing. Helicopters have limited range and can experience delays due to the need to refuel.
STARS is an excellent and growing component of our medevac system but it’s not feasible to expect STARS to replace the thousands of fixed wing medevac flights into Edmonton from across Alberta, our neighbouring provinces, and the northern territories.
Even if STARS can be available to perform the occasional shuttle service and is able to fly in the weather conditions, the added time for the medevac plane to fly further south to the International Airport at Leduc, the long taxi distance for the air ambulance plane to get from the end of the runway to the new STARS hanger at the farthest end of the airport, the time to get the patient out of the medevac plane and onto the helicopter, the added time it will take the plane’s paramedics to brief the STARS crew, and the time it will take the helicopter to fly north again to get back into the City’s tertiary care hospitals all mean that lives are needlessly being put at risk. Trying to burden STARS with the impossible mission of becoming an airport shuttle for several patients a day will mean that patient safety and quality care will change for the worse.
Consider this: what if 2 medevac planes landed at the same time: one at the City Centre Airport and the other at the International in Leduc? If you started a stop watch when the planes got to the end of the runway, the City Centre Airport patient would be going into the emergency room at the Royal Alexandra Hospitals before the plane at the International was even beside the helicopter. And then there are all of the delays getting into the helicopter, switching medical teams and flying back north into Edmonton (assuming the helicopter is even available.) Make no mistake–lives are about to be put at risk after the relocation of medevac services is implemented by the province.
Excerpt from the Bonnyville Nouvelle newspaper, Feb 19, 2013
In announcing the move, Alberta Health has indicated that STARS, which has a helicopter base at the International Airport, could be used to transfer the most critical, time-sensitive patients from that airport to the Edmonton hospitals.
However, Cam Heke, manager of media and public relations for STARS, said while those conversations have taken place with Alberta Health Services, it is important to note that STARS doesn’t have a helicopter and crew sitting at the International Airport specifically dedicated for transporting patients between the airport and hospitals.
“STARS does currently have one on-duty aircraft and crew 24 hours a day, seven days a week (at the International Airport) and when we’re available and when it’s appropriate, we certainly will assist in moving some of those very time sensitive patients. Now, that said, it’s important to indicate that is when we are available because we do fly approximately 700 missions a year out of our Edmonton base.”
Heke said on average about twice a day STARS from Edmonton is out on a mission “so that means we’re not at the base all the time.” He said it’s too early to know if STARS will be able to fill the role Alberta Health is envisioning.
“That Edmonton base is a very busy base and the numbers have been growing year after year. So, as far as how we are going to manage additional calls going forward, right now we don’t know exactly how many of those patients we are going to be requested to move, so part of it will be let’s wait and see how this works out once patients start coming in,” Heke said.
So, the Alberta Government is about to conduct an experiment involving the lives of our loved ones!
As medical doctors, we know that when someone is seriously injured or suffering a medical emergency (heart attack, stroke, premature birth, or other critical condition), timely access to specialized medical care saves lives, reduces suffering, and improves health outcomes. Minutes matter.
When unfortunate medical emergencies strike families, friends, or coworkers in rural and northern communities such as Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, those needing urgent specialized care are sent by fixed-wing medevac air ambulances to Edmonton’s specialty downtown hospitals.
Last year, over 5,000 northern Albertans were medevaced to Edmonton’s hospitals through the City Centre Airport—an average of 14 per day. The current medevac landing strip is less than 5 minutes from the Royal Alexandra Hospital and only 13 minutes away from the University of Alberta Hospital.
A study by the Health Quality Council of Alberta found that 58% of medevac flights into the City Centre Airport were Code Red or Code Yellow critical, time-dependant patients.
With the pending closure of the City Centre Airport, the provincial and city governments previously promised that relocation of medevac flights away from the City Centre Airport would not occur until proper arrangements were in place to preserve the same timely medevac services rural and northern communities have now.
To our surprise, the Alberta Government announced before Christmas that it will be relocating all medevac flights to the Edmonton International Airport at Leduc on February 15, 2013. On January 21, 2013, the government announced that it was moving the relocaiton date forward to March 15, 2013. As medical doctors and front-line emergency medical personnel we know that the relocation to the International will result in a significant increase in patient transportation times for your family and your community as is clearly indicated on the attached table.
As of today, arrangements have not been made to preserve timely access. Without a doubt, the relocation needs to be delayed until viable options are presented and implemented: lives depend on it.
We have carefully studied the government’s relocation plan. It is seriously flawed: lives are at being put at risk.
- The government has used misleadingly low figures for the number of critical patients that fly into the city via fixed-wing air ambulances. As front line doctors sending critical patients via medevac, we know that the government’s low figures don’t line up with what we see in our sending hospitals every week. The unofficial estimate is that 5,000 patients were medevaced to Edmonton via the City Centre airport last year. A detailed, independent study by the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) on medevac relocation found that in 2010 there were 3,059 Alberta patients delivered by fixed wing medevac air ambulance to Edmonton’s City Centre Airport. (Another 805 from adjoining provinces and territories.) Of those Alberta patients, 1,779 (58%) were classed as ‘critical’ or ‘time-dependent’. The relocation away from the City Centre Airport will take us from the best medevac response time to the worst in Canada.
- The government says that the STARS helicopter can shuttle patients from the International to the two tertiary hospitals: Royal Alexandra and University of Alberta. But STARS has publically stated that it can’t be the “solution” and will only shuttle the occasional patient if its helicopter is available and can fly in the weather conditions. Even if STARS could do it, the result will still mean significant new delays in getting that critical patient to care when minutes.
- The new A “triage unit” at the EIA hanger will serve no medically beneficial function to critical or time-sensitive patients arriving on medevac flights. The reason anyone finds themselves on a Code Red or Code Yellow medevac flight is because that patient has already been triaged by two or more medical doctors who have determined that the patient needs immediate care in one of Edmonton’s tertiary care hospitals for specialized services not available in Northern Alberta. Here are some examples:
1. If you are having a heart attack and the drugs administered by your local northern hospital aren’t working, then the doctor wants you to be delivered to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) immediately. Holding you in the EIA triage unit will only reduce your chance of survival or avoiding serious heart damage. The proposed triage unit will not be able to help. Same applies if you having a stroke.
2. If you having pre-mature high risk labour, being taken off of the medevac plane and being put into the holding triage unit at the EIA hanger will not help you or your baby.
3. If you have been medevaced because you were injured in a vehicle collision, an industrial or farm accident—moderate to severe closed head injuries, trauma involving the brain or spinal cord, intra-cranial hemorrhages—you will require critical care not available at either rural hospitals or the new triage holding unit. You will need interventional radiologists, trauma surgeons, and intensive care only available at the RAH and University of Alberta Hospital. Laying in the new triage unit at EIA won’t help you. It will make things worse.
We are making an urgent effort to inform Albertans about what is about to happen. Albertans can request that the government delay any relocation of medevac services until proper arrangements are in place as the Alberta Government is legally responsible for our health care access.
Please contact the Premier and the Edmonton MLAs. Click on the red link at the top of this page to contact the MLAs. Request that the relocation be delayed until a proper solution is implemented.
The life that you help save may well be that of someone you know and love.