Village of Alix council surprised at the service level STARS provides
June 16, 2023 By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review
After a detailed presentation from STARS Air Ambulance at their regular council meeting June 7, Alix village councillors in central Alberta sounded at least interested in changing the fact they do not directly support the air ambulance financially.
Councillors heard a detailed presentation from Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society’s (STARS) Glenda Farnden, senior municipal relations liaison, who has been touring Alberta and giving presentations to municipalities that directly support STARS, and presenting the benefits of support to those who currently don’t.
Readers are likely aware STARS is a non-profit air rescue organization that operates it’s own medi-vac helicopters and other equipment with highly trained medical professionals on board with the goal of transporting medical emergencies as quickly and safely as possible.
Farnden began by noting STARS has been undergoing a bit of a re-branding recently, tweaking their logos and ensuring the organization’s focus on saving lives is now also widely known to be capable of providing, “Critical care, anywhere.”
Much of Farnden’s presentation illustrated the high level of emergency medical care STARS provides, which several councillors noted came as a bit of a surprise to them.
Farnden explained funding is very important to an organization like STARS, noting the Government of Alberta currently pays 20 per cent of STARS’s budget, but there has been serious talk recently that said funding could increase to 50 per cent. She stated 80 per cent of STARS’ expenses are aviation and medical-related, adding that STARS’ admin costs are only 12 per cent of its budget.
Farnden stated STARS takes pride in keeping its admin costs at a modest level to ensure as many funds as possible can be channeled to air travel and medical expenses.
She noted with a map that STARS coverage of Alberta is quite deep, adding that more than 90 per cent of rural Alberta municipalities are direct financial supporters of stars.
“All rural people need access to STARS,” said Farnden.
Recently, Lacombe County, with which the Village of Alix has some ties, has become a direct financial support of STARS by approving a $2 per capita grant she stated.
Looking at a five year overview of statistical numbers for the Lacombe County/Village of Alix area, in the current calendar year STARS has already conducted three missions in that area, noted Farnden.
She stated the number of missions in the Lacombe County area seem to be increasing while noting, overall, STARS receives 100 emergency requests per day.
When asked by Mayor Rob Fehr if STARS responds to drug overdose emergencies, specifically fentanyl, Farnden responded STARS does handle such emergencies. “We have seen a few overdose cases as well,” said Farnden.
While the STARS representative noted Alix is in a somewhat remote location with no hospital nearby, it is in a unique geographic location about halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, so could be served by either of those STARS bases.
Farnden also went into great detail explaining the training and expertise of STARS pilots and medical personnel adding STARS provides a lot of critical care. She stated a STARS helicopter is in effect an airborne intensive care room.
Coun. Tim Besuijen stated he wasn’t aware STARS provided so much medical care, thinking instead STARS just transported people to the hospital.
Farnden closed her presentation by asking Alix village council to consider financially supporting STARS to the tune of $1 to $2 per capita. According to 2016 numbers Alix has a population of 734.
During discussion staff and councillors made comments in support of STARS and stated it was very likely councillors will discuss granting money to STARS at their next budget deliberations.
Mayor Fehr noted he was surprised at the service level STARS provides.
“More than I ever thought,” added the mayor.