Saskatchewan

Ambulance helicopter will start as daytime only service

A new air ambulance service in Saskatchewan, that will use helicopters to transport people with emergency medical needs, is set to launch as a daytime-only service for southern parts of the province.

Helicopter will use Regina airport for base and shuttle patients to Regina General Hospital

A new air ambulance service in Saskatchewan, that will use helicopters to transport people with emergency medical needs, is set to launch as a daytime-only service for southern parts of the province.

Officials announced Wednesday that the service, provided by STARS, the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, will be operational in Regina on April 30.

"We will begin our missions from the Regina base during daylight hours and transition to a 24/7 operation late this summer," Ron Dufresne, the vice president of STARS Saskatchewan operations, said Wednesday.

The reason behind a daytime only service to begin with, is so that federal officials can evaluate the level of compliance with regulations.

"Transport Canada basically dictates that we only run daytime operations for a 60 to a 90 day period," Jon Antal, a flight paramedic in Regina, explained. "After they come out and do a site assessment and make sure that everything is up to par, we will be allowed to go to 24/7 operations."

The service will use one BK 117 helicopter for southern Saskatchewan, with the aircraft due to arrive in Regina in a week. Initially, the aircraft will operate from offices and a hangar at the Regina airport, until a helipad is built at the Regina General hospital.

Patients will be moved from the airport to the hospital in a road ambulance.

Antal said the helicopters will be able to land on highway surfaces to attend to crash emergencies. They will also be available for transporting critically ill patients from a rural hospital to a larger centre.

He added the service will be able to contribute to air search and rescue work with the RCMP.

A similar air rescue base is set for Saskatoon, but not until some time in the fall.

The province said the air ambulance initiative was feasible thanks to donations from several corporations, including Crescent Point Energy, Mosaic, Potash Corp, Enbridge, Enerplus, Husky Energy, and Rawlco Radio.

The service provider, STARS, describes itself as a charitable, non-profit organization.

It has service agreements in B.C., Alberta and Manitoba.

The Saskatchewan government has signed a ten-year deal with STARS.

According to the STARS website, the service will be able to reach most parts of the province when it has both bases operating, and if it is able to add an AW139 medically-equipped helicopter to the BK 117 aircraft.

The site also says that fees, set by the province, will be the same as for a fixed-wing air transport at $350 per flight.