Ontario's chief coroner is enlisting the help of experts to take another look at deaths involving the province's troubled air ambulance service over the past six years to determine whether Ornge transport may have played a role.
Dr. Andrew McCallum said his office did an initial review of some deaths and found that none of them appear to have been materially affected by issues involving transport by Ornge, which is currently under a criminal probe for financial irregularities.
Since then, other deaths have come to light, he said.
A panel comprising experts in air ambulance, pre-hospital care and emergency medicine is being established to "comprehensively review" all such cases, he said.
"The expert panel will provide their opinion as to whether or not issues pertaining to air ambulance transport had any impact on the outcome in each case, and may make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths in future," McCallum said in a release.
The exact number of deaths that will be reviewed hasn't been determined, but there are 17 cases so far that have been identified for the panel to consider, said deputy chief coroner Dr. Dan Cass, who will sit on the panel.
Work is already underway and the panel expects to deliver a report to the chief coroner by late fall.
The panel will be lead by Dr. Craig Muir, the regional supervising coroner in Sudbury and a former chief of surgery. It will also include two emergency physicians, Dr. Jonathan Dreyer and Dr. John Tallon. All have expertise in emergency care and trauma management.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said he wants to hear those recommendations.
"If the coroner's panel comes forward with any recommendations to enhance the safety measures then obviously we would be very interested in receiving those and putting those into place," he said.
The people who work at Ornge devote themselves to public safety, he added.
"I know they do the very best that they can, but if there's anything and all we could do to enhance safety conditions then we would like to do that."
A legislative committee spent several sessions probing the controversy that's engulfed Ornge, including former CEO Chris Mazza's $1.4-million compensation.
The province's auditor general has already questioned Ornge's business dealings and slammed the government for failing to oversee an organization that received $730 million over five years and borrowed $300 million more.