Letter to the editor RE: Just an Observation: Hands off the helicopters

AHS responds to Ponoka News column

Dear editor,

We would like to offer some additional information about the AHS Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) review.

READ MORE: Just An Observation: Hands off the helicopters

AHS EMS launched the HEMS review on Nov. 22, 2019. The current HEMS providers (STARS, HERO & HALO) support the review and are actively participating, mainly through direct meetings.

Since the launch, we have sent notification letters to stakeholders (including, but not limited to hundreds of staff, helicopter providers, dozens of municipal leaders and elected officials, as well as First Nations communities and our Medical First Responder partners) and invited them to be part of the process. Many have taken us up on this offer.

In addition, we have compiled a panel of national experts to advise us as we look at industry best practices and develop recommendations.

We’re also seeking input from the public, staff and stakeholders through our online engagement website, Together4Health (https://together4health.albertahealthservices.ca/) which provides information and updates regarding the HEMS review, encourages input from stakeholders including the public, conducts surveys and reports continued progress. We have already had dozens of questions asked and answered on the site, and numerous emails and communications with interested parties.

Currently AHS funds helicopter services differently, as each service has evolved differently over time; this is partly the reason why a review was needed.

With that said, AHS takes its responsibilities as fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars seriously. We do all we can to operate as efficiently as possible, while ensuring quality, timely patient care.

AHS has a responsibility to provide equitable EMS services for Albertans, regardless of where they live. The HEMS Review will include evaluation of existing services and recommendations to enhance patient care, overall safety, efficiency, reliability and equity for EMS response in remote and rural areas. It will also better identify patient need and response areas that would benefit from helicopter medical transport.

Darren Sandbeck

M.A., ACP CHE Senior Provincial Director and Chief Paramedic Alberta Health Services

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