Dr. Brian Postl made several recommendations as part of his report into the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, which was released by the province on Wednesday.
The recommendations include, among other things, that STARS “immediately” pursue Canadian Medical Association accreditation in order to help Manitoba’s service achieve consistency with programs in other provinces; the creation of an Operations Liaison Committee to focus on problem solving; and the creation of a paediatric transport team for the Manitoba helicopter EMS and Lifeflight needs.
Last December, STARS was temporarily suspended from flying medical flights after a woman died following an inter-hospital flight in late November. It was the third serious case in a year involving the Alberta-based helicopter air ambulance service in this province.
In May 2013, an air ambulance flight from Brandon to Winnipeg transported two-year-old Morgan Moar-Campbell for tests following a seizure.
Doctors at the Brandon Regional Health Centre put Morgan into an induced coma, which meant he couldn't breathe on his own, requiring the insertion of a breathing tube. Parents told media that the tube was discovered pulled out after the helicopter landed in Winnipeg.
His parents were told their son was deprived of oxygen for 30 minutes and the only part of his brain still working was the brain stem, which regulates basic functions.
In his summary of recommendations, Dr. Postl said a paediatric transport team should evolve into an RT/Nurse based program, such as those that have been created in other jurisdictions.
“If there are costs associated with deploying this model, the Department of Health, Healthy Living and Seniors, should resolve in collaboration with (the Winnipeg RHA) and STARS,” the report reads. “STARS should not be involved in transport of children (IFTs) until the paediatric transport team is put in place.”
He also determined that STARS should not be involved in inter-facility transport of children under the age of 12 until this new paediatric transport team is operational.
In March of this year, the air ambulance service was allowed to fly again in Manitoba, but only in response to emergency scene calls. Then earlier this month after the province determined the enormity of the flood threat, STARS was allowed to resume hospital-to-hospital flights.
As we have noted before on this page, this is an expensive 10-year service agreement the provincial NDP has bungled Manitoba into, but we deem it a necessary one.
In April, Manitoba’s auditor general, Carol Bellringer, issued a damning report that suggested the government ignored its own rules when it signed the STARS contract, and criticized the fact that the air ambulance became a full-time service during the October 2011 election campaign.
Not only did the province not comply with public tendering principles, contract information was not initially made available to the public as set out in legislation.
The province’s value-for-money analysis for STARS was weak in that costs per mission were likely to be 231 per cent to 618 per cent higher than other EMS programs. Thus, taxpayers are on the hook for $160 million, not just the original $100-million contract that was initially signed.
However, as Manitobans have been paying for this costly service, and now that Postl has made his recommendations, we hope the province and STARS will move swiftly to implement the report’s recommendations and ensure that the service is fully restored and improved. Having a partial service does little good for critical patients in rural hospitals.
But we also suggest voters remember this bit of bungling when it comes time to cast a vote at the ballot box.