Calgary

STARS air ambulance sees uptick in COVID-19 patient flights

STARS says about 18 per cent of the patients it has treated or transported this month by helicopter in the Prairie provinces have been people with COVID-19.

Crews doing more transfers between hospitals involving COVID-19 patients

A STARS air ambulance helicopter is seen in a file photo, posted to Facebook on Jan. 1, 2020. STARS officials say they're transporting more and more COVID patients in the Prairie provinces. (STARS Air Ambulance/Facebook)

STARS air ambulance says about 18 per cent of the patients it has treated or transported this month by helicopter in the Prairie provinces have been people with COVID-19.

That's up from seven per cent in the summer, says Dr. J.N. Armstrong, chief medical officer of STARS.

With the surging number of COVID cases being reported in all three Prairie provinces, Armstrong says it's not surprising that it's happening more frequently.

In addition to getting trauma patients to hospitals, he says STARS crews are doing an increasing number of transfers between hospitals involving COVID patients.

"We are also actually moving some patients to other ICUs, such as for example Lethbridge or Red Deer, to help spread out the load that our ICUs are experiencing," he said.

"You know our entire health-care system is under the strain of COVID-19 and we're no different."

Armstrong says after each mission involving a COVID-19 patient, crews must return to base to change all of their clothing and personal protective equipment as well as decontaminate the helicopter. 

That's a process that can take up to an hour to complete.

'We have a very specific cleaning process for inside the helicopter, our equipment and our folks as well," he said.

Armstrong says that extra time has not affected the number of flights crews can undertake.

With files from Scott Dippel

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now