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STARS suspension could impact rural health care: Opposition

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The STARS emergency medical service was temporarily suspended by the province Monday following the death Friday of a woman suffering from cardiac arrest.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

The STARS emergency medical service was temporarily suspended by the province Monday following the death Friday of a woman suffering from cardiac arrest. Photo Store

The province’s grounding of the Alberta-based Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) helicopter ambulance service could further damage already stressed rural health care, the Progressive Conservative Opposition said today.

The STARS emergency medical service was temporarily suspended by the province Monday following the death Friday of a woman suffering from cardiac arrest.

Health Minister Erin Selby has said the woman’s death is now being investigated as a critical incident — the third critical incident in less than a year. The three incidents all involve the proper delivery of oxygen to a patient.

The suspension of STARS was raised in the Manitoba legislature today with Tory health critic Cameron Friesen saying it comes at a time when the province has been hard-pressed to provide emergency service in rural Manitoba.

Friesen said the province needs to be more forthcoming that emergency service will not suffer because STARS cannot fly patients.

"What are these interim measures that are now in place?" Friesen said. "The minister said she has a plan, but remember, the minister has said she had a plan before.

"When we have raised questions about ambulance wait times, the minister has said it’s all good, we have STARS. We’ve raised questions about doctor shortages in rural communities, the minister has said, we have STARS. We have raised questions about ER closures and she has said we have STARS.

"Now we don’t have STARS."

Selby has said the province has reconfigured its fixed-wing air ambulance system in the absence of STARS so patients needing medical care are flown from rural and northern Manitoba to Winnipeg as quickly as possible. The fleet includes two critical-care air ambulance jets and 24 basic air-ambulance aircraft.

"It definitely was not an easy decision," Selby said of the temporary suspension. "It was on the advice of medical professionals that told us that they had serious concerns about procedures not perhaps being followed."

STARS is also the subject of a value-for-money audit by Manitoba's auditor general to be released early next year. The audit is looking at the province’s 10-year $100-million contract with STARS, which was signed last February.

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