Lifeflight doctors won't walk off job Tuesday, province says
Physicians threatened to pull out over concerns about safety, privatization plan
Doctors who work for the Lifeflight Manitoba Air Ambulance service won't walk off job on New Year's Day as they had previously threatened to do, the provincial government says.
"Department officials have received confirmation from Lifeflight physicians that there will be no service disruption on Jan. 1. We look forward to continuing to discuss their concerns with them in the new year," a spokesperson for Health Minister Cameron Friesen said in an email message on Monday.
The doctors had said the province must hire more pilots and fund annually required training for pilots.
When asked to comment over the weekend about the impending deadline, Lifeflight medical director Dr. Renate Singh declined to comment. There was no indication given as to whether the physicians have set a new deadline.
Lifeflight doctors sent an email to Manitoba Health in late November, warning they'd stop working on private medevac planes come Jan. 1 if their concerns — including the government's plan to privatize air ambulance services — aren't addressed.
The Manitoba government issued a request for proposals to privatize the Lifeflight air ambulance and general transport services in July.
Lifeflight provides air ambulance services to remote communities and inter-provincial trips for things like organ transplants and cardiac services.
The group of Lifeflight physicians have publicly expressed opposition to the privatization of air ambulance services, citing the "incident-free" record of Manitoba Government Air Services for more than 30 years, and concern for the safety of patients and care providers.
The doctors say the decision to privatize the entire service would harm northern communities whose runways don't meet national standards for private carriers.
Health Minister Friesen has insisted the province will not go forward with the plan if the new firm is not cost-effective and doesn't maintain existing safety standards.
On Dec. 13, the province promised to hire two more pilots for the service. It also pledged $750,000 to maintain the service's two Citation jets.