As the province looks into the future of Helicopter Emergency Medical Services, which includes STARS Air Ambulance, the County of Grande Prairie is backing the life-saving service.

“We are very happy with the service we get in the region,” says Director of Community Services Dan Lemieux.

“When we received a letter recently that said a review was being undertaken, the administration wanted to bring that to council’s attention, because we know that council is a very strong supporter of STARS ambulance service we have.”

As part of the full review, Alberta Health Services is hoping to provide a more clearly define the role of HEMS providers. They also say they want to unify practices and procedures across Alberta, while also looking for the most effective funding model.

Currently, STARS Air Ambulance sees around 36 per cent of its funding, approximately $28 million a year, coming from government contribution. As recently as September 2019, STARS kicked off its fleet renewal capital campaign in Grande Prairie, intending to replace the ageing fleet of BK117 and AW139 choppers with new medically equipped Airbus H145 for $13 million each.

Lemieux notes that with a lack of population density in the Peace Country and beyond the system, which may seem like a luxury in large urban areas, becomes a needed asset in our neck of the woods.

“STARS is an essential service, particularly in remote areas of northwestern Alberta, so we certainly benefit from tremendous helicopter air ambulance service. We want to be heard, and we want the review panel to know how valuable that service is for northwestern Alberta.”

Residents are also invited to take part in Helicopter Emergency Medical Services public consultation, which can be found on AHS’ website.