Following a recent patient transportation incident with STARS air ambulance service and advice from medical professionals, Health Minister Erin Selby announced today the temporary suspension of STARS.
“On the advice from medical professionals, I’ve instructed my department to take this action. Up until now, I’ve been assured that STARS is providing appropriate emergency care, but concerns have been raised following a recent incident,” said Minister Selby. “We all know STARS has played a vital role in our health-care system saving many lives every year, but we must ensure that each patient receiving care on board STARS is receiving the right care.”
Late in the evening of Nov. 28, STARS was transporting a patient in the Southern Health Region to Winnipeg for further specialized care following cardiac arrest. At the time of the flight, the patient was cleared for takeoff, however, after landing in Winnipeg and, despite the best efforts of medical staff on the ground, the patient later died. At the time of the incident, a doctor, paramedic and critical care nurse were on board along with all appropriate medical equipment.
“This is a tragedy in which my deepest sympathies go out to the family. I can’t begin to understand the hurt they are feeling and my thoughts are with them,” said Minister Selby. “This case is now being reviewed as a critical incident so we can get to the bottom of what happened and provide answers to the family.”
The pause in STARS service will remain in effect pending the results of the critical incident investigation, she added.
Manitoba Health has had to take the step of temporarily suspending ground and other air ambulance services in the past until issues of concern were resolved.
A contingency plan has already been enacted during the absence of STARS, the minister said. Lifeflight and basic air-ambulance service has been expanded into southern communities and, if deemed medically necessary, physicians will accompany patients on land ambulance transfers.
Manitoba Health currently has 24 basic air ambulances and two Lifeflight jets that are always staffed by a critical care physician, who is available as part of emergency medical services in the province. They are dispatched in the same operational manner as STARS.
During the floods of 2009 and 2011, Manitoba contracted Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) to provide specialized emergency medical services via helicopter. Based on that experience, Manitoba decided to implement a permanent helicopter ambulance program with STARS. Since arriving in Manitoba in 2011, the STARS helicopter ambulance has flown over 694 missions resulting in over 434 patient transports.
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