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STARS hopes to be back in the air in January

The STARS air ambulance could be back in service early in the new year.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

The STARS air ambulance could be back in service early in the new year.

Manitoba’s helicopter ambulance is set to resume service as early as the new year.

A spokesman for the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society confirmed late Tuesday evening the air ambulance expects its suspension to be lifted in the next few weeks.

Colin Fast said,"STARS is working with the province right now to finish the case review and make any adjustments needed to enhance the program. We're hopeful we'll be able to resume service in January when that process is complete."

The confirmation comes two weeks after the head of the Alberta-based Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society helicopter ambulance service, grounded by the Manitoba government, Monday hinted the service might soon be back into air.

This week, calls to get the ambulance helicopter back in the air followed the death of 16-year old Jonah Crookes who crashed his snowmobile into the trees near Provincial Road 210. Authorities were reported to say the teen’s life might have been saved if STARS had been called to the scene.

Early this month, STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson said she is hopeful two provincial reviews into the service will eventually see STARS back in the air over southern Manitoba.

"If there's one single thing we can do better, we're absolutely open to that," Robertson said Tuesday.

The STARS emergency medical service was suspended by the province following the death in November of a woman suffering from cardiac arrest.

Health Minister Erin Selby said at the time that the woman's death is being investigated as a critical incident — the third in less than a year. The three incidents all involve the delivery of oxygen to a patient.

The first occurred last February and involved an adult — no details have been released — and saw six dispatch restrictions placed by provincial medical officials on STARS, including the type of patient the service could fly and the distance it could transport patients.

The second critical incident was in May and involved two-year-old Morgan Moar-Campbell. He was being flown from Brandon aboard the 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 been pulled out, depriving him of oxygen and leaving him severely brain-damaged. His case is now the subject of a lawsuit.

STARS is also the subject of a value-for-money audit by Manitoba's auditor general to be released early next year. The audit is looking at the province's 10-year, $100-million contract with STARS, which was signed last February.

The experience of STARS in Alberta, where it started in 1985, and in Saskatchewan, where it began operating in 2012, is the opposite of Manitoba's. Neither western province has investigated a critical incident involving STARS. STARS had never been suspended until it was grounded in Manitoba.

— with files from Bruce Owen

History

Updated on Wednesday, December 18, 2013 at 2:58 PM CST:
STARS started service in Alberta in 1985.

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