The future of helicopter emergency medical services in Western Canada will soon receive a significant lift, thanks to a vital funding commitment from the Government of Canada.
It was announced in today’s federal budget that STARS, a non-profit, charitable helicopter air ambulance organization operating across the Prairie provinces will receive $65 million to help replace its fleet of aging aircraft.
“This commitment by the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale and the Government of Canada is an investment in the future of Western Canadians, enabling STARS to be there to fight for the lives of patients in need for generations to come,” said STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson.
STARS’ operations support important federal responsibilities, including indigenous communities, responses to natural disasters, the RCMP and the natural resources sector while helping to level the playing field for Western Canadians who live, work and play outside of the big cities.
The 34 year-old organization unveiled in June 2018 an ambitious, multi-year plan to renew its current fleet of BK117 and AW139 helicopters with new Airbus H145 aircraft.
“The bulk of our current fleet—the BK117 helicopters—are no longer being built and are becoming costlier to maintain,” said Robertson. “And independent reviews of the sustainability of our fleet told us we needed to move from two aircraft types to one.”
Nine new helicopters are required to replace STARS’ fleet: five aircraft to operate STARS’ three Alberta bases; three for its two Saskatchewan bases; and one for its Manitoba base. Each medically equipped helicopter costs approximately $13 million.
“We are incredibly grateful that the Government of Canada has recognized the role STARS plays in ensuring the health and safety of Western Canadians,” said Doug Ramsay, co-chair of the STARS volunteer board of directors and vice-chair and founder of Calfrac Well Services. “This is a historic announcement for STARS and for our fleet renewal process. It’s exceptional news for our patients.”
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