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Health Minister Jerome Kennedy announced changes to the province's air ambulance system. ((CBC))

Newfoundland and Labrador is moving one of its two air ambulances from the Northern Pennisula to Labrador.

The air ambulance based in St. Anthony will be moved to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, in central Labrador.

The provincial government also announced Wednesday that it will spend $8.7-million in next week's budget to replace the aging air ambulance plane in St. John's, and to add a second medical flight team in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Provincial officials said Thursday that there is no need for third plane but if one were added it would be based in Deer Lake.

The relocation from St. Anthony means a medical service will be taken out of a provincial district – the Straits-White Bay North – that elected a Liberal candidate, Marshall Dean, in a byelection last October. The district had been held by Progressive Conservative Trevor Taylor, a former cabinet minister.

"To listen to the minister of health give his justification for what he has done, my thought is [it's a] city boy stripping rural Newfoundland," Dean told reporters, referring to Health Minister Jerome Kennedy.

Kennedy said government's decision is based on an independent report  that included recommendations on the location of air ambulance services.

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Liberal MHA Marshall Dean criticized the government for moving an air ambulance from St. Anthony to Labrador. ((CBC))

He also told reporters it's not relevant that the St. Anthony region no longer has a voice in cabinet.

"I'm not going to speculate on what would happen if Trevor Taylor were in cabinet. Trevor Taylor or anyone else could have their say [but] the statistics, the population and the issues we've had in Labrador support this move," Kennedy told a news conference.

Kennedy quoted flight statistics from 2006 to 2009 that showed there were twice as many patient pickups from Labrador as compared to St. Anthony.

"The report states that the population base of Labrador supports that the second air ambulance aircraft and medical flight team be centrally located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay," Kennedy said.

The review was conducted by Wes Drodge of WJD Consulting Inc., a consultant with more than 30 years senior management experience in the health care sector.

It contains eight recommendations:

  • The air ambulance aircraft should be located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to serve the people of Labrador and Northern Newfoundland;
  • There should be a second medical flight specialist team stationed in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to accompany the air ambulance aircraft to be located there;
  • The aircraft flight crews and the medical flight specialist teams must be sufficiently staffed to provide a 24/7 level of service;
  • There must be aircraft available to provide a 24/7 level of service;
  • To ensure consistent training and to maintain competence, the teams should rotate as necessary;
  • The air ambulance service should be organized as a single program with a single administrative structure;
  • Data gathering, reporting and analysis must be standardized; and,
  • If a third aircraft were to be considered it should be located in Deer Lake.

The location of the two air ambulances came into question last week, when an Iron Ore Co. of Canada employee in Labrador City died while waiting for a medivac plane to arrive.

Eldon Perry, 56, fell from a platform while working inside the mine.

Municipal politicians, Opposition parties and the United Steelworkers union have all called on government to station one of the planes in Labrador.

The St. Anthony-based aircraft was not available to respond to the call from Labrador City last week.