STARS to take over Lifeflight in Manitoba

STARS to take over Lifeflight in Manitoba 21 Sep, 20, Source: Shared Health

STARS will assume expanded responsibility for adult air ambulance services within Manitoba, ensuring reliable staffing and consistent, high quality care: Wright

As part of sustained efforts to provide reliable, high quality Lifeflight services for Manitobans, Shared Health is expanding its partnership with Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS), CEO Brock Wright, provincial lead of health services, announced today.

“Critical care medical air services are relied upon by rural and northern health care providers and Manitoba patients in need of specialized and emergency medical care, which often requires air ambulance transport to larger health centres in Winnipeg,” said Wright. “Reliability of this life-saving service on a 24/7 basis has been – and remains — a top priority.”

Critical care medical air services in Manitoba have been provided over the past two years by a combination of Shared Health adult and child (neonatal/pediatric) transport teams, Lifeflight staff and STARS. STARS has also partnered with Shared Health to ensure the availability of fixed-wing services during periods of staffing vacancy or unfilled shift coverage, Wright added.

“Together, these teams have ensured ongoing and consistent availability of the Lifeflight service, even with the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wright. “In the early months of the pandemic, gaps in Lifeflight physician coverage were covered by STARS, demonstrating our ability to build upon our existing partnership to  further stabilize staffing and ensure Manitobans have access to this service for years to come.”

The Lifeflight service will transition operational and staffing responsibilities to STARS no sooner than Dec. 10, 2020 through an expansion of the service purchase agreement already in place with Shared Health. In the interim period, Lifeflight staff and physicians will continue to provide the service, to ensure a safe transition with no negative impacts on patient care.

Oversight for quality, patient safety, financials and other service areas will be the responsibility of a joint operations committee made up of Shared Health and STARS clinical and administrative leads. The agreement is in place until March 2022.

“STARS has delivered critical care for patients in Western Canada since 1985,” said Dr. JN Armstrong, chief medical officer for STARS. “Last year, 50 per cent of our helicopter missions across Manitoba provided inter-facility transport for critically ill or injured patients. Through this expanded partnership, our skilled air medical crews and transport physicians will continue to ensure patients in Manitoba receive the highest level of care in their moment of need.”

Access to the service will remain unchanged, with Shared Health’s Medical Transportation Coordination Centre continuing to accept calls from Manitoba health care providers. Clinical staff will continue to be assigned according to individual patient need and STARS will utilize both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft for the transport of adult patients within Manitoba. Adult patient transports to facilities outside Manitoba as well as all pediatric and neonatal transports will continue to be performed by Shared Health staff.  Where appropriate and clinically safe, basic air ambulance and/or ground ambulance services will continue to be utilized.

Affected staff and their unions have been informed of the operational decision. Details of a labour adjustment will be worked out with the respective unions in the weeks ahead, with opportunities to be provided to all affected staff.

The Lifeflight program was developed in 1985 and provides inter-facility air ambulance transport for critically ill or injured Manitobans from areas outside a 200-kilometre radius of Winnipeg.

STARS has provided rapid and specialized emergency care and transportation for critically ill and injured patients in Southern Manitoba since 2011. The organization also operates in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

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