WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s helicopter ambulance service will likely resume flying critical patients from rural hospitals to Winnipeg in a matter of weeks.
Dr. Brian Postl, who heads up a clinical oversight committee reviewing the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS), said he will soon draft recommendations to provincial Health Minister Erin Selby on what standards STARS and its air crews have to meet before being allowed to fly full-time again.
“My guess is that they should be at least beginning the process of inter-facility transports in the pretty near future, measured in weeks, certainly not months,” Postl said.
STARS was temporarily suspended from flying medical flights last Dec. 2 following the death of a woman after an inter-hospital flight in late November. It was the third serious case in a year involving the Alberta-based helicopter air ambulance service. On March 7, STARS was allowed to fly again by the province, but only in response to emergency scene calls.
Since being reinstated, STARS has only flown six missions in Manitoba compared to dozens of flights in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where STARS also flies, over the same period.
Postl said STARS has already met some conditions, such as upgrading training for its staff and making its senior medical officials available for consultations.
“They’ve been very
co-operative,” said Postl, who is also University of Manitoba’s dean of medicine. “We’ve talked a little bit about some aspects like accreditation and specific issues like children. (Transporting children) is very low volume, but it requires a very high skill set.”
During a STARS inter-hospital flight last May, a breathing tube became dislodged from two-year-old Morgan Moar-Campbell, who was being flown to Winnipeg from Brandon for tests following a seizure. The boy was in an induced coma and could not breathe on his own. When he landed in Winnipeg, the dislodged breathing tube was discovered. It’s believed he was deprived of oxygen and severely brain damaged. His case is the subject of a lawsuit.
Postl also said the committee and STARS have discussed ways in which quality of medical care by air crews can be better monitored.
The clinical oversight committee was created after Dr. Stephen Wheeler, medical director of B.C. Air Ambulance and Critical Care Transport, reviewed 16 cases involving STARS Manitoba. In his report, Wheeler highlighted eight concerns, including that STARS’ Manitoba nurses and paramedics required further training and experience to work in the Manitoba air-medical environment and in the special needs of pediatric patients. Wheeler was hired by the province after STARS was suspended in December.
» Winnipeg Free Press