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Saskatchewan air ambulance receives funding

April 7, 2011, Regina - A helicopter air ambulance service for Saskatchewan moved closer to taking off Wednesday as the provincial government and several large corporation backed up their support with money.


April 7, 2011
By The Regina Leader-Post

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Premier Brad Wall signed an agreement under which the provincial government will give the nonprofit Shock-Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) $5 million in this budget year, and $10 million more annually over a10-year agreement.

To back it up, Crescent Point Energy pledged an additional $5 million over four years, while potash giant Mosaic committed $5 million.

The search is now on for additional corporate and private donors for the service, which hopes to begin operations from Regina and Saskatoon in 2012.

A Wednesday morning news conference in a hangar at the Regina International Airport was told that Husky Energy, Rawlco Radio and Enbridge have made financial commitment that will be announced "in the coming weeks".

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Leading off the new conference was Melfort MLA Rod Gantefoer, who while in opposition and in government has argued for a helicopter medical evacuation helicopter since he saw one in action in Calgary in 2003.

Dr. Gregory Powell, STARS CEO and president, said plans call for bases at Regina and Saskatoon next year, both initially using the MBB/Kawasaki BK 117 twin-engine helicopters.

But as time goes on, the one at Saskatoon could be replaced by a larger, faster AgustaWestland 139 helicopter, with longer range that would permit flights into northern Saskatchewan.

But both Powell and Gantefoer stressed STARS is intended to complement, rather than replace, the province's fixed-wing air ambulance service, which began in 1946 and has a main base in Saskatoon and a sub-base in Regina.

Powell compared aircraft and helicopter ambulances to a "hare and tortoise" combo. The helicopter can land vertically, which suits it for certain aeromedical evacuations where an airfield is not nearby. But a fixed-wing aircraft is much faster and can "fly above" bad weather.

So both will be integrated with the province's existing network of private and public-sector road ambulances and emergency medical services.

STARS has bases in Calgary, Edmonton and Grand Prairie, Alta., and operates in Alberta and eastern B.C.

Wednesday's news conference was held in front of a STARS medical education vehicle because all of its helicopters were on standby or undergoing maintenance, showing that — as Gantefoer said — "they're focused on one specific thing — and that's the patient."


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