By Carlie Connolly
On its eighth year, HALO has serviced more than 50 communities within the region and around 120,000 citizens. In the past seven and a half years, HALO has been dispatched 200 times. HALO’s budget is roughly 1.1 million dollars at the high end, and even with help from generous donors they don’t have help in funding by the government.
“Our concern is of course that the oil industry as it starts to see a decline in revenues, that will mean a decline in donations. We’ve already seen that. I applied for grants and donations from oil industry and I’ve seen a lot of rejection letters. Right now they just don’t have the revenues to do it,” said Stuart Riley, Executive Director of HALO.
“I hope that the government will recognize the demand for the service and they will step up to the plate.”
He has started a petition to get people’s signatures for the government to give them some funding. It’s to get people to understand what HALO is, and that they are different from STARS.
STARS receives roughly 40% of their annual budget from the government.
“We’re asking for the same formula. The difference being that they’re budget is in the millions and millions of dollars. Our budget is about 1.1 million dollars at the very high end,” Riley said.
Riley doesn’t think the government is funding them because they haven’t been vocal enough in their needs, since they have been doing so well with fundraising on their own.
Riley said that the worst case scenario is when they run out of funding, and when they can’t pay their lease any longer. The paramedics that accompany the helicopter are paid for by Alberta Health Services, with the helicopter being the lease. He said that the leaseholder has been incredible, never raising the cost in over seven years.
They do lease the helicopter and the leaseholder has been amazing. They haven’t raised it in more than seven years.
“We’re at the point now where if we don’t get funding, we could see the program shut down. That is the worst case scenario.”
He said that with all the service they provide, what they are asking for worked out to be four dollars per person a year.
Riley began the petition two weeks ago and is around 500 signatures. He will run the online petition until the end of February and would love to see 10,000 signatures. The goal is for at the end of March to take the petition to MLA’s and have them hand delivered to the health minister and the premier.
“We’ve had good local support from our MLA’s, they’ve been behind us and they do know the value of HALO.”
He said that this isn’t about STARS, and that they don’t travel to this area, as their helicopter is too large and typically can’t land in some of the remote locations they need to go.
Chief Administrative Officer of Cypress County, Kevin Miner said that HALO has provided a great service to the county, especially those areas that are not close to the hospital, and if bad weather were to occur.
“Sometimes your hours away from getting an ambulance out there and its really your only chance to live sometimes.”
With Cypress County contributing around $80,000 to HALO, Miner sees a big benefit to the people
He believes the issue is twofold when it comes to asking money from the government. On the one hand, he thinks the government shortchanges HALO on what they should receive, as they get so much extra fundraising money from others, becoming a private donation versus being run by the provincial government.
“In my opinion this is a healthcare thing and is supposed to be run by the government. But when the government doesn’t fulfill that mandate, then the people step in.”
He also realizes that the government can’t afford to do every service that Albertans want, giving it a two-fold effect.
“Even though it would be nice to have it when the revenues go down, it’s really hard to ask the government for more stuff unless you’ve got something to offer up.”