New Brunswick

Grand Manan loses air transport contract for patients

The end of a 30-year service that transports ill or injured Grand Manan residents off of the island to hospitals on the mainland has some people worried, but Ambulance New Brunswick officials are confident there will be no ill effect on patients.

Ambulance New Brunswick confident it will be able to meet needs

The end of a 30-year service that transports ill or injured Grand Manan residents off of the island to hospitals on the mainland has some people worried.

Village officials plan to meet with Health Minister Madeleine Dubé later this month to discuss the contract's termination.

But Ambulance New Brunswick officials say they are confident they will be able to meet the needs of island residents.

A contract between Ambulance New Brunswick and Atlantic Charter expired on July 1.

"This is a really sad day for us because what we're seeing is a degradation of a service we've enjoyed and a comfort we've come to expect in our community — that if we're sick we're going to be receiving a certain level of care," said Melanie Sonnenberg, the general manager of Atlantic Charter.

"It's not like being in downtown Moncton or Saint John, or some of our bigger centres, or even some of our rural areas where you can get in an ambulance and get from Point A to Point B in a certain amount of time," she said.

Atlantic Charter could deliver a patient to the Saint John Regional Hospital in under an hour, said Sonnenberg.

Now, residents will have to rely on Ambulance New Brunswick’s AirCare plane, which services the entire province and is sometimes hindered by poor weather conditions.

Just last week, for example, AirCare was dispatched to transport a patient off of Grand Manan, but the pilots were forced to turn back because they couldn’t see the runway.

Atlantic Charter was called and managed to fly the patient to the mainland, said Sonnenberg.

Ambulance New Brunswick can also call on a plane from Nova Scotia.

Otherwise, the only other option for patients is to take the ferry, which only departs four to seven times a day, depending on the time of year, and takes about 90 minutes, plus the ambulance ride from Blacks Harbour to a hospital.

'No ill effect on services'

Still, Ambulance New Brunswick is "confident there will be no ill effect on services to the people of Grand Manan" as a result of the contract ending, spokesperson Tracey Bell stated in an email.

"Patients on the island have the same access to Ambulance New Brunswick’s air ambulance services as any other resident in the province," said Bell.

"And the new Grand Manan Ferry is equipped with a sick bay — making it more appropriate, convenient and comfortable than ever to transport low-acuity patients off the Island by ferry," she said.

"There has been no impact on patient care as a result of Ambulance New Brunswick’s increased use of the ferry for transport in recent months," Bell added.

The decision on the most appropriate method of transporting a patient off the island has always been made by a provincially-appointed medical control physician in consultation with the sending physician from the Grand Manan Hospital, said Bell.

That has not changed, she said.

"Ambulance New Brunswick continues to follow the direction of the provincially-appointed medical control physicians for the safe transportation of patients from Grand Manan Island."