Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Provincial chopper available during STARS suspension

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The province has made a government helicopter available for emergency medical calls in the absence of the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) air ambulance service.

Health Minister Erin Selby said Friday a helicopter from Conservation, with paramedics on board, can be dispatched for serious incidents.

'I'm not going to portray it as being the same as STARS -- it's not. If somebody is in one of those areas that no other option is there, we can get them'

-- Health Minister Erin Selby

"I'm not going to portray it as being the same as STARS--it's not," Selby said. "If somebody is in one of those areas that no other option is there, we can get them. It's what we used to do. It's what we could still do now."

The STARS helicopter air ambulance service was suspended by the province earlier this month following the November death of a woman suffering from cardiac arrest.

Selby said at the time the woman's death was being investigated as a critical incident, the third involving STARS in less than a year. The three incidents all involved the delivery of oxygen to a patient.

Selby said a review of the matter will be completed in the new year.

"We are going to work on a plan that puts a medical helicopter air ambulance back in the air with safety being our priority," she said.

The STARS helicopter still flies periodically, but those flights are for training only, she added.

Selby's response comes after last weekend's death of 16-year-old Jonah Crookes, who crashed his snowmobile into the trees near Provincial Road 210. Some authorities speculated the teen's life may have been saved if STARS had been called to the scene.

Selby said in that particular case, the STARS helicopter would not have been dispatched because the incident occurred in a heavily wooded area.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2013 A18

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