All STARS air ambulance crew members across the Prairies receive the same amount of training — an amount that's being criticized by an external review of the service.
CBC News obtained details from a draft external report, commissioned by the Manitoba government, examining the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society's operations in the province.
The report by Dr. Stephen Wheeler, medical director of B.C. Air Ambulance and Critical Care Transport, concludes that STARS Manitoba’s 10-week training program is “grossly insufficient” and “falls far short of training models in B.C. and Ontario,” where air crews must train for 12 to 24 months.
"Compared to other air medical transport programs across the country, its training program is remarkably brief and cannot provide the necessary amount of training required for modern, complex, critical-care transports," Wheeler writes.
But officials with STARS are defending the service, saying all STARS crews in the Prairie region undergo the same 10-week training period.
"You have to be careful about comparing apples to oranges and 12- to 24-four month training period may not be the same as an intensive 10-week training period," said Dr. J.N. Armstrong, STARS' chief medical officer in Winnipeg.
Armstrong said Wheeler wasn’t given enough time to work on the report and got many things wrong.
Both STARS and the provincial government say the report is not finalized yet.
STARS bases accredited by U.S. commission
STARS flights in Manitoba were temporarily suspended in December, following the death of 39-year-old Kristen Joiner of Steinbach, Man.
"[That] the government of a province in Canada would allow a 10-week training program and for something like this to happen, it's unacceptable," Mike Fitzpatrick, Joiner's father, told CBC News in an interview.
In his report, Wheeler also calls for STARS' Manitoba base to be accredited by a recognized accrediting organization.
But Armstrong said all of STARS' bases are accredited by a U.S.-based organization called the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems.
"Specifically they cited our training, in our most recent accreditation, as being outstanding," Armstrong said.
In an email to CBC News, the commission stated, "STARS has been featured in our Best Practices book for their excellent human patient simulation education."
Dr. Stephen Wheeler could not be reached for comment on the report and the points raised by STARS.