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STARS resumes service in Manitoba

March 13, 2014  By The Winnipeg Free Press

March 13, 2014, Winnipeg - The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) air ambulance is back in the air, but as of noon Wednesday is only allowed to respond to emergency calls.

It is still to be determined when the helicopter air ambulance
service will be allowed to transport patients from hospital to hospital,
or inter-agency transfers.

Health Minister Erin Selby said the resumption of
emergency flight comes with increased training for air medical staff,
including working at busier STARS bases in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

"The medical review
process has been concluded, our medical team has signed off on the
changes to address patient safety issues to its satisfaction and STARS
will now be resuming emergency calls," Selby said. "This is an important
first step to getting STARS back into full service for Manitoba
families and for emergency medical service in this province."


STARS was suspended by the province in
early December after three critical incidents in less than a year,
including the death of a female patient with cardiac arrest three days
earlier. Each incident involved issues with intubation and proper
delivery of oxygen.

The province ordered an external review
of 16 cases involving STARS and contracted Dr. Stephen Wheeler of the
B.C. Ambulance Service Air Ambulance Program to do it. Wheeler submitted
his initial report in December, but STARS officials balked, citing
several inaccuracies. A redacted version of the report, removing patient
information, was released today.

The first critical
incident occurred last February and involved an adult; no details have
been released. It resulted in six dispatch restrictions being placed by
the province on STARS, including the type of patient the service could
fly and the distance it could transport patients.

The second critical incident was last
May, and involved two-year-old Morgan Moar-Campbell, who was being flown
from Brandon on a STARS helicopter for tests following a seizure. The
boy was in an induced coma and could not breathe on his own. When he
landed in Winnipeg, it was discovered his breathing tube had become
dislodged, depriving him of oxygen ad leaving him severely brain
damaged. His case is now the subject of a lawsuit.

Andrea Robertson, CEO of the
Alberta-based STARS, said the non-profit rescue service welcomes the
government’s decision and will abide by new training requirements for
air medical crews.

Selby said the creation of
a new clinical oversight panel under U of M dean of medicine Dr. Brian
Postl will provide guidance for helicopter air-ambulance service on
future training, accreditation for personnel, and quality assurance for
clinical operations leading up to resumption of inter-facility

Members of the panel are: Dr. Renate
Singh, associate medical director, Manitoba Air Ambulance; Dr. Doug
Eyolfson, associate medical director, Medical Transportation
Coordination Centre; Dr. Doug Martin, base associate medical director,
STARS Winnipeg; Dr. J.N. Armstrong, chief medical officer, STARS; Dr.
Tony Herd, associate medical director, Manitoba Ground Ambulance; and
Arlene Wilgosh, CEO, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) or her

The province will also transfer the STARS
service to the WRHA from Manitoba Health, to oversee the province's
arrangement with STARS. This will enable medical crews to train in
Winnipeg's emergency and critical-care medical system.

Since arriving in Manitoba in 2011, STARS has flown 676 missions resulting in the transportation of 439 patients.


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