Saskatchewan sees STARS

Air ambulance service propels on the prairies

Feb. 15, 2012 — The World-Spectator

SAKATCHEWAN – Kelly Prime has seen his share of trauma.

An advanced care paramedic in Wynard, Prime responds to emergency calls and deals with critically injured patients on a daily basis. His job requires immediate medical response—providing intensive care to injured patients on-scene and often transporting patients to city hospitals.

This spring, STARS helicopter air ambulance service will land inSaskatchewan, assisting rural EMS with their duties. The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society will provide intensive care for critically ill or injured patients, air-lifting them to hospitals inReginaorSaskatoon.

Prime says he has had two cases this year where he could have benefited from an air ambulance service, so he expects STARS will be an asset in his area.

“I’m going to get those (emergency) calls no matter what—a helicopter is never going to beat me out to the scene, but they can assist me with critical care once they arrive,” he said.

“If I have an accident, and three critical (injuries), I can send two patients off in a helicopter and I can take the least critical back to the local hospital. I will always be there first, but they can come as extra help.”

Founded in Alberta 25 years ago, STARS announced the launch of their services in Saskatchewan last November and is expected to move into Manitoba. Since the news of their landing on the prairies, operations have moved forward and information outreach sessions have been held across the province.

“The purpose of the outreach sessions are to both inform and educate our community partners, emergency services and health care providers,” said Cameron Heke from STARS. “And since we are new to Saskatchewan, we are also learning from each group with whom we meet.”

STARS met with approximately 55 groups in southern Saskatchewanin 2011, completing phase one of the outreach program. Directed at community medical practitioners and first responders, the outreach sessions explained the role of STARS in rural emergencies. The service will not replace existing rural paramedics, but rather work with them, and supplement their efforts on the ground.

The air ambulances are equipped with a pilot, a co-pilot, critical care nurse and an advanced care paramedic. The STARS Emergency Link Centre is a 24-hour communications centre that is notified in the case of an emergency—one call notifies a team of responders who fly out to the scene, help with critical care and transport patients back to city hospitals.

With their initial introductions complete, STARS is now further integrating the program intoSaskatchewan’s rural communities. So far this year, they have met with 10 groups and communities, and hope to reach at least 50 by year end.

Heke says the info sessions have been well received in rural communities thus far, and the cooperation between Saskatchewancommunities and STARS is revolves around a common goal of providing immediate patient care.

Although Prime believes that it’s more important to have advanced care paramedics in all rural communities than an air-transportation service, he recognizes that STARS has a big role to play in the province.

“It takes away from my job, but on the flip side, patients will get to the city faster and will get more care. And it keeps me in my community so if I’m needed for another incident, I can be there. With our skills and our ability (rural paramedics) are better able to support our patients on scene, but STARS will definitely help to get them transported more quickly,” he said.

The Regina landing base is scheduled to be operational by this spring, with Saskatoon following suit in the fall.

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