By Justin Seward
The County of Forty Mile council had a phone call meeting with UCP Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Nov. 10 to talk about the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services) review.
The HEMS review was fast tracked on June 2 after HALO Air Rescue was in dire straits after a lack of funding. The review was done in hopes of gaining consistent provincial funding for HALO.
Council voiced their frustration on the delay of the HEMS review when the document was already completed once.
“It’s now basically been a full year since the RMA resolution went forward asking for the review,” said Steve Wikkerink, county reeve.
“I believe it was on Nov. 22 last year that the government announced that AHS was going to do the review. Well we’re almost back to that date and it’s been a full year and we’ve got no answers. The other frustrating part is both Reeve (Cypress County Dan) Hamilton and myself have asked to see copies of the first report. We should be allowed to see it, it shouldn’t be a hidden document, and so far he will not release it to us.”
Council did ask about where the insufficiencies were in the review and Shandro never did answer their question.
“He tried to talk quite a bit that STARS can service all of Alberta and HERO and HALO want to supplement that-that would be Ok,” said Wikkerink.
“We really questioned him, if AHS’s focus is patient care and if it’s patient care for us down here, STARS is not the answer. I said how could that be the answer when HALO can fly to Foremost in 20 minutes. It’s going take STARS 70 minute longer and yet that’s supposed to be good for the patient.
“We kind of went at him two or three times with stuff like that and he’s like ‘Well I didn’t say that.’ We said to him ‘Technically you’re right, STARS can cover Alberta, but in the instances where HALO is already being used-that means STARS is too busy.’”
Wikkerink questioned that if the review is about patient care, then why is provincial government balking HALO.
“He said ‘Well I didn’t say that,’” said Wikkerink.
“Well maybe not, but that’s sure what you meant.”
Frustration grew in the council chamber when Shandro made the comment to council that he had never seen a direct funding model or a funding request from HALO.
“Coun. Chantel Timmons and I looked at each other and said ‘You’ve got to be kidding’,” said Wikkerink.
“HALO CEO Paul Carolan has been all over that ministry, supplying them with information. If he hasn’t seen it,that’s terrible.”
The feeling after the meeting is that the residents in HALO’s zone still feel like second class citizens.
“A life down here is not as important as those that live on the Highway 2 corridor where STARS can service them,” said Wikkerink.
“That’s really how we feel. At the same time I’ve reached out to MLA Drew Barnes, Minister Grant Hunter, I’ll follow up with Reeve Hamilton (this) week and I think we have to get the southern municipalities together again.”
Wikkerink added, “We’re going to have to do something to make some more noise again.”
The UCP’s interest may fade in the southern parts if there is nothing done soon.
“Right now the UCP has no interest in guaranteeing us HALO down here,” he said.
“If that keeps going, the UCP will lose seats down here next election.”