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July 23, 2024 July 23, 2024

STARS support waning among Cypress councillors

Posted on July 6, 2024 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

During the Cypress County Council meeting that took place on June 18, Administration brought a Request for Decision before Council regarding a funding request from STARS of $2 per capita for years 2024 & 2025 totaling $30,096 in conjunction with the remainer of the Council term.

At the January 2024 meeting, Administration explained, representatives from STARS appeared before Council and gave an overview of their program, and as a follow up to the delegation they have submitted the funding request.

Administration concluded that their recommendation is that Council approve STARS’s Funding Request of $2 per capita for 2024 and 2025 totaling $30,096. Ultimately, Councillor Lloyd Want made a motion that Council approve STARS’s Funding Request of $2 per capita for 2024 and 2025 totaling $30,096 prior to discussion.

“I’m a real HALO supporter,” said Councillor Want. “I also believe that it doesn’t matter who comes and picks them up. When somebody’s injured and hurt, being a first responder, your priority is preservation of life, the next one is protecting property. I think we should fund this just in case they are the first ones there.”

Councillor Robin Kurpjuweit also expressed support for committing to the $2 per capita for 2024 with the condition that Council engage in future discussions with HALO, as HALO has always been a partnership with the County.

“I would hope that they could at least sit down at the table with us and figure out how we can make our air ambulance service down here better with their support, which may at times allow for HALO to fly into southwestern Saskatchewan as well,” said Councillor Kurpjuweit.

“STARS right now to Medicine Hat is a transfer,” said Councillor Hok. “Air transfer for patients from Medicine Hat to Calgary. They don’t come and rescue somebody south of Seven Persons in the field that is injured. HALO has two choppers: if one is broken there is another one.

Also, we do have a fixed wing plane that does fly patients from Medicine Hat to Calgary. I really don’t think we should fund anything yet until there is more collaboration with STARS and HALO and to get it straightened out of their conflict at times of not letting HALO fly. I know what STARS is and I’m really passionate about them, but they can’t get someone from south of Seven Persons; they are just a transfer from Medicine Hat to Calgary, same as their fixed wing. In other words, why wouldn’t we also be supporting the fixed wing if we’re supporting hospital to hospital transfers? It’s something I think we should really sit down with them and really demand that there’s more collaboration with HALO and STARS before any funding because we really need HALO first.”

Councillor Dustin Vossler also established that STARS does have the capability to do pickups in the Suffield area or even up by in the Jenner area if needed and they can still have enough fuel to head back to Calgary, so they do service the Cypress municipality, and they do provide a service for residents.

Councillor Richard Oster also expressed regret not mentioning that there are 7,700 people in Cypress County and the County has put $300,000 into STARS, which is roughly $39 a person, so they really are contributing a lot.

“I think that once STARS does acknowledge how important HALO is and they need them, we will work with them as far as contributing,” Councilor Oster said. “When they increase their participation working with HALO to go out on calls, there’s a trade-off there and they definitely could work better and more efficiently and recognize them as a viable partner and then we could be there for them.”

Councilor Keith Ritz stated that having had both STARS and HALO fly into the community shows that there
is value in both organizations, but he also emphasized that he is hesitant to support them 100 percent without more
discussion.

“STARS doesn’t play nice in the sandbox with dispatch,” said Reeve Dan Hamilton. “Until they straighten that out, we shouldn’t be helping them at all. It’s nothing to do with safety. We still have helicopters that can get there with HALO and STARS will come because the government’s paying for them to be there, but until this stuff gets straightened out with dispatch, no. And the other side of it is STARS gets helicopters given to them all the time from the federal government. If HALO needs help, we should be helping HALO before we help STARS.”

Ultimately, Councillor Want withdrew his original motion and made an alternate motion that Council acknowledge the vital contribution of STARS to Alberta’s healthcare system but will not commit to funding at this time, and the motion was carried.

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