June 19, 2017 2:35 pm
Updated: June 19, 2017 5:38 pm

Province suspends Southern Air Ambulance program

The service provides airplane transportation for patients living 2.5 hours from a hospital by ground.

Government of Manitoba/Supplied

WINNIPEG — The Southern Air Ambulance program has been suspended due to a lack of qualified pilots.

A provincial spokesperson confirmed the program is not currently operating in an email to Global News.

The Southern Air Ambulance program provides inter-facility transport via airplane for patients who would have more than a 2.5 hour trip in a ground ambulance.

It services areas that don’t qualify for the Northern Patient Transportation Program including Dauphin, Swan River, Russell and Virden.

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“I’m dumb founded to where this is going to lead us and what’s going to happen. It think it’s putting Manitobans at a huge risk for our health care right across the province,” said Michelle Gawronsky with MGEU, the union representing Manitoba paramedics and Air Ambulance pilots.

The program’s suspension will take ambulances out of rural areas for hours at a time because EMS crews will have to transport more patients, said Gawronsky.

“To add this extra load to them is just going to cause further strain and further fatigue, they can’t keep the ambulances in the provinces running now 24/7, to add this to it when you don’t have the southern air ambulance , this is another concern,” she said.

In the 2014/2015 fiscal year 565 patients flew with the program, while in 2015-2016 that number dropped to 336.

“Manitobans can still access inter-facility transports by land ambulance at no cost to patients,” read a statement from a provincial spokesperson emailed to Global News.

The province’s emergency air programs, STARS and Life Flight, are fully operational.

No timetable was given on when the program could be up and running again.

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