Calgary

Air ambulance in southern Alberta says it will close without provincial funds

An air ambulance service based in Medicine Hat that services southern Alberta, says it might have to scale back or cease operations without operation funding from the province. 

HALO Air Ambulance has been asking for operational funding for years, according to CEO

HALO Air Ambulance is based out of Medicine Hat and serves southern Alberta. (HALO/Instagram)

An air ambulance service based in Medicine Hat that services southern Alberta, says it might have to scale back or cease operations without operation funding from the province. 

HALO says the reduction in service could come as early as June and it could shut its doors by July. 

The organization says the pandemic has decimated its ability to fundraise and it relies on donations and fee for service payments from the province to stay in the air. 

"The issue now is between COVID-19 and lack of provincial investment, we just don't have the reserves to weather this particular crisis," said CEO Paul Carolan.

HALO continues to fundraise

In 2016, a provincial capital grant helped buy a new helicopter for the ambulance service, but Carolan says HALO has been requesting provincial operational funding for several years without success.

He says the organization is not looking for full funding long-term and will continue to reach out to donors and other fundraising partners. 

If HALO does cease its operations, STARS Air Ambulance says it would continue providing coverage in the region out of Calgary.

Helicopter ambulance review

A statement from the Alberta health minister's office says it recognizes the importance of effective air ambulance service for the province and notes it provided a $1 million capital grant to HALO last year.

The minister's office said it is fast-tracking a review of provincewide helicopter ambulance services.

Online, however, the Alberta Health Services portal for that review said on Monday that engagement activities are currently on hold "so that our AHS team can focus on supporting Albertans as we work together to respond to COVID-19."

On Tuesday, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said they were not able to "quickly get the webpage changed over the long weekend" and that the review has now been restarted. 

With files from Dave Gilson

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