Air ambulance delay unacceptable: Labrador health

A top Labrador health official says a recent death in western Labrador underscores the need to improve air ambulance services to the area.

A top Labrador health official says a recent death in western Labrador underscores the need to improve air ambulance services to the area.

Eldon Perry, 56, fell from a platform at the Iron Ore Co. of Canada's Labrador City mine and died while waiting for an air ambulance to arrive.

The regional health authority's review of what happened found the hospital in Labrador city called for an air ambulance plane minutes before 7 p.m. but one did not arrive until six hours later.

"There have been a number of incidents in the past, in the recent months where there would appear to be delays in responding to emergencies in Labrador and a review of the air ambulance system is ongoing as we speak," said Labrador Grenfell Health CEO Boyd Rowe. "Obviously from our perspective we want to see some improvements in the system that would allow for a faster response to emergencies."

When a medivac was called for Perry, the St. John's-based air ambulance that is normally used was out of service and the charted aircraft, the Eastern Regional Health Authority had on standby, was delayed.

"There was some time taken to recharge the onboard oxygen system on the aircraft. There was also some additional time taken in retrieval of equipment from the Health Sciences complex [in St. John's]," said Rowe. "In fact, the responding medical people had to return to the Health Sciences to retrieve some equipment."

The plane didn't get off the ground until after 9 p.m. NT. Rowe says the back-up air ambulance should have been available to respond without delay.

"There's no question. If an aircraft is on a retainer to substitute for the regular air ambulance then I'm of the view that that aircraft should be able to respond in a manner that aircraft should be able to respond as quickly as a regular medivac aircraft," said Rowe.