STARS air ambulance set to go back in the air

An announcement is coming today from the Manitoba government about getting the STARS ambulance back in the air.
The Manitoba government temporarily suspended STARS air ambulance flights on Dec. 2, citing safety concerns. (CBC)

An announcement is coming today from the Manitoba government about getting the STARS air ambulance back up and running.

The service was grounded in December after a number of critical incidents, including one where a patient died, and another was left brain damaged. That sparked internal and external reviews.

A spokesperson with the province said an announcement will be made at 11 a.m.

The NDP government has been pressured by fire chiefs in Manitoba to reinstate the service, which they say is vital.

Last month,  the Eastman Mutual Aid Fire District (EMAFD), which covers 9,000 square kilometres in the southeastern part of Manitoba and is represented by 18 fire halls, sent a letter to Health Minister Erin Selby demanding the return of STARS.

The suspension of STARS creates a "serious void in our emergency medical response system," the letter states.

Nine fire chiefs in the West Central Fire District also sent a similar letter.

But at least one person is not happy the service will be operational again.

Mike Fitzpatrick's 39-year old daughter Kristen Joiner was the patient who died after a transport. On Thursday, he was briefed on what the internal review found.

Doctors told him paramedics grabbed a depleted portable oxygen tank on board the helicopter even though a full one was sitting right next to it.

Fitzpatrick said the critical incident review found the depleted tank ran out and his daughter was given medications instead.

A medical examiner report states Joiner would have died anyway. But Fitzpatrick doesn't know how they can be sure.

"If she hadn't a run out of oxygen you wouldn't have had to give her that medication. So how can you say 110 per cent that she would have not survived?" he said.

"Their [provincial government] main concern is that this doesn't happen again? [If] they're just going to put them back in the air, it could very well happen again."

Fitzpatrick is also angry because he was told Thursday by officials with Manitoba Health that they didn't know when STARS service would be back.

And then just one day later he learns from CBC News there will be an announcement sending STARS back in the air.