The Manitoba government has made the correct decision by temporarily grounding the STARS air ambulance service, following the death of a heart attack patient last week.
The announcement was made on Monday after a woman who was being transported to Winnipeg for medical care on Nov. 28 after suffering a heart attack died shortly after landing. This, in spite of the fact that the flight was fully staffed with two pilots, a doctor, a paramedic and a critical care nurse.
It’s the third critical incident involving STARS this year.
Last May, two-year-old Morgan Moar Campbell suffered brain damage following a flight from Brandon to Winnipeg for medical treatment. The boy had been placed in a medically induced coma, a procedure that requires insertion of a breathing tube before liftoff. As the Winnipeg Free Press reported, the tube was discovered dislodged when the helicopter landed in Winnipeg.
In a third critical incident that had not been previously reported, a patient was not provided with sufficient oxygen during a flight in February.
These cases are apparently among 16 now under review by an external auditor. Though the province brought together experts after the first incident to draw up conditions for future flights, the head of the health emergency management said it doesn’t appear that those conditions were being followed.
As a result of the grounding of the air ambulance service, we are of course concerned for the safety of Manitoba’s rural residents while the provincial review is conducted. Thankfully, the province has its own fleet of 24 air ambulances and two jets to rely upon during the suspension.
If the province is to continue funding STARS in Manitoba to the tune of $12 million per year, it must ensure that the service is following the best medical practices, for the safety of all its patients.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 4, 2013