STARS helicopter ambulance service in Manitoba will still be unable to transfer children under 12 between hospitals until a provincial paedatric critical care transport team can be established.

That's according to findings of a clinical oversight committee report released today by the province.

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Morgan Moar Campbell was deprived of oxygen for a period of time after being transferred from a STARS helicopter to an ambulance in May. The two-year-old boy suffered brain damage. (Family photo) (Courtesy the Moar family)

But the service can still transport paediatric patients from "on scene" calls — like accidents and other critical care situations. 

The author of the report, Dr. Brian Postl, Dean of Medicine at U of M, told CBC that the case of Morgan Moar-Campbell, a two year old who suffered brain damage during a STARS transfer, influenced the committee's decision to uphold the ban.

“Clearly the transport of children was identified as an issue,” he told CBC news. “Clearly when things have gone wrong we have to learn from them and make sure that it doesn’t recur,”

Postl said that he hopes a paediatric critical care team could be set up in the next couple of months.

The report also contains recommendations on how the helicopter service can improve its emergency service in the province.

In early December, the air service was temporarily suspended after 39-year-old Kristen Joiner died following an air transfer near Steinbach in November and medical concerns about previous missions surfaced.

Questions about STARS accreditation, the training of its crews and a clinical review of 16 cases arose from a report by Dr. Stephen Wheeler, an emergency room physician in February this year. 

STARS said the report contained “inaccuracies.”

The service was allowed to resume on March 7, but was restricted to on-scene calls and the province announced the creation of the clinical oversight committee at that time.

STARS was called into full service, including inter-hospital transfers for adults, in early July when this year’s flood threat became apparent.  

Postl told CBC today that the committee reviewed all the issues that came forward in previous reports to come up with today’s recommendations.

He said the committee created a place for everyone involved in a complicated process to come together.

“Everyone ended up being very cooperative and willing to do what it took to make things work.” He said.

The clinical oversight panel report also recommends:  

  • Through the Medical Transportation Coordination Centre (MTCC), STARS should be integrated further into the provincial emergency medical services system.
  • The transfer of the STARS service purchase agreement to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority will be completed by August 1, 2014. The office of the Medical Director, EMS will be maintain authority on  standards, quality and assessment.
  • STARS should pursue Canadian Medical Association accreditation.