Air ambulance workers at Ornge in Thunder Bay are relieved their employer is finally hiring a third paramedic crew.

The base only had two crews for three aircraft, often leaving the helicopter grounded. 

Over the last year, front-line staff sounded the alarm about problems at Ornge. A log book showed that, last summer, the helicopter was unavailable about a quarter of the time, often because flight paramedics were tied up on Ornge's two airplanes.


Wade Durham, Ornge's director of operations for the North, says staff members are thrilled more paramedics will be brought on board. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

"Everybody's ... very, very happy here," said Wade Durham, director of operations at Ornge in Thunder Bay.

"It's been a long-time coming … All three vehicles will be staffed 24-7, 365 [days a year]."

'Great news'

Former Ornge flight paramedic Trevor Kidd is applauding the move. During legislative hearings last summer, he voiced his concerns about risks to patients.

"This is great news, first of all, for the patients of northwestern Ontario," Kidd said.

He said a fully-staffed helicopter is vital.

"It can get people to the hospital much faster," he said.

"And if you've been in a traumatic event, a traumatic car accident, a little bit of time can make a huge difference in patient outcome."

Durham said Ornge will be hiring 10 new paramedics and, using the helicopter, will be able to reach people in remote or difficult-to-access locations.

He said he hopes to have the paramedics trained up by summer, when traumas happen most often.

Ornge's new president and CEO, Dr. Andrew McCallum, travelled to Thunder Bay on Wednesday to tell Ornge employees about the increased staffing.

It’s a sign the organization is turning a corner, Kidd said.

"It's great to see that the air ambulance appears to now be taking a larger percentage of the money that they're getting and directing that towards front-line care and improving the care that patients get," he said.