June 6, 2019 10:34 pm

Manitoba moving ahead with Lifeflight air ambulance privatization

The province has announced plans to privatize the Lifeflight air ambulance service.

Global News

Manitoba is moving ahead with a plan to privatize the Lifeflight air ambulance service and the province’s largest union is not happy.

“I stand here today in total disbelief, anger, and frustration,” MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said at a media conference Thursday.

The province said it will replace the use of two Citation jets with two private carriers as early as this month, saying recruiting highly specialized employees is becoming very difficult due to specific qualifications and training required.

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Lifeflight provides quick inter-facility air ambulance transportation for seriously ill or injured Manitobans within 200 kilometres of Winnipeg.

READ MORE: Safety, savings required say province on private bids for air services contracts

Gawronsky is worried for the safety of those residents.

“Those communities should feel very let down by their government today,” Gawronsky said.

“Who is going to ensure that this service is going to be there for Manitobans when needed and that it’s going to be the best safety it can be?”

WATCH: (2016) Air ambulance transports 2 people to hospital after school bus rollover near Winnipeg

In July 2018, the province put out a request for proposals for private firms to operate the air ambulance, but said it would proceed with plans to privatize only if the same level of service and safety could be offered.

In November, 16 air ambulance doctors wrote a letter to Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen, listing their concerns with the plan.

“We the medical staff of Lifeflight Manitoba Air Ambulance wish to make it clear that we are not prepared to work in an environment that provides substandard patient care and increases risk to patients and providers,” the letter stated.

READ MORE: Lifeflight doctors urge province to scrap privatization plan

But the province is still going ahead.

“It is absolutely shameful that this government would not listen to the doctors, nurses, mechanics or maintenance staff who have all for months been telling them that this was a risky move,” Gawronsky said.

The province said most other Canadian jurisdictions use privately-owned and operated air ambulance services.

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