11 May 2010

Jerome! ducks reporters on medevac fuss

Health minister Jerome Kennedy today refused to answer questions from reporters following his claim that incidents in St. Anthony related to his decision to relocate the air ambulance service had reached the pointed where he was speeding up the relocation.

As CBC reported:

"There has been at least one other incident that has caused us some concern," said Kennedy, who added that the situation in St. Anthony has become so volatile that the government moved up its timetable on relocating the air ambulance service.

But Kennedy would not describe other incidents, and was not available to speak with reporters later.

Kennedy is moving the air ambulance without a trained crew to handle medical evacuations.  As a result, the aircraft will have to fly from its new home in Goose Bay to St. John’s to pick up a crew and then return to carry out the med evac.

The relocation came after two incidents in Labrador where aircraft were unavailable for medevac flights.  Neither incident was connected to the aircraft base location.

In the fall of 2009, for example, a child waited for nine hours while the lone air ambulance then flying made a series of runs to and from Labrador with more urgent patients.  The second of the provincial government’s two medevac aircraft was down for repairs at the time and – apparently – no arrangements had been made for a backup.

Other aircraft were potentially available.  For example, Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation – owned 65% by the provincial government’s energy corporation  - owns a B-300 King Air that is both available for charter under certain circumstances and which can be configured for medical evacuation.

In late 2006, entrepreneur Bill Barry tried to interest the provincial government in chartering aircraft from a company he owned at the time to provide medevac service from Deer Lake. It appears nothing came of the idea.