Premier Christy Clark announced that dedicated helicopter air ambulance service will begin serving the Central Interior immediately to ensure faster service for critically ill or injured Interior patients, leading to better outcomes.
Last summer's trial period has shown that a dedicated helicopter air ambulance service improves patient care.
"Seconds count when dealing with a life-threatening illness or traumatic injury, so it is important patients have access to the care they need," said Premier Clark. "Having a dedicated helicopter air ambulance and a team of highly trained critical care paramedics who can transport them to the nearest tertiary hospital, which could be a few hours' drive, will lead to better patient outcomes."
This announcement comes after an extensive evaluation of the eight-week trial period that occurred last summer where dedicated helicopter air ambulance service was in place for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The BC Ambulance Service's (BCAS) Critical Care Transport helicopter team was deployed a total of 62 times, transporting patients to hospitals in Kamloops, Kelowna and Vancouver 33 times over the two-month period.
"This $2.35-million annual investment supports rural communities like Clearwater with better access to RIH and improved support for rural physicians," said Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake.
After the trial period ended, emergency air transport in the Interior continued to be provided by the dedicated airplanes already in place and as needed by chartered helicopters from pre-qualified local air operators. Now there will be a dedicated helicopter air ambulance in the region, staffed by trained pilots and Critical Care Transport paramedics for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Current patient demand, as well as weather and terrain in the area, indicate 12-hour service is an appropriate level for the Central Interior.
"Everyone knows about 'The Golden Hour' - that tight, precious window of time when people's chances of survival and optimal recovery are highest," said Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger. "Emergency room physicians and your local MLAs have worked eight years for this service."
"The Emergency and Health Services Commission is continuously striving to improve outcomes and find better value for patients in B.C.," said Emergency and Health Services Commission executive officer Carl Roy. "The addition of a dedicated rotary air ambulance service in the Central Interior is another example of our commitment to providing rapid response and high-quality care to critically ill or injured patients."
"Our region includes geography that can present a challenge for those responding to medical emergencies. This option will help address long distances and mountainous landscapes," said Interior Health CEO Dr. Robert Halpenny. "The dedicated helicopter service, along with Interior Health's High Acuity Response Teams that were launched last year, together will provide excellent emergency response service."
There are four dedicated helicopter air ambulances in the province: two in Vancouver, one in Prince Rupert and now one in Kamloops. Six fixed-wing air ambulances based in Vancouver, Kelowna and Prince George also support the BCAS Critical Care Transport program. 85 per cent of all patient transports by BCAS air ambulances are done by dedicated service providers and the addition of this new asset will increase efficiencies. In addition to the dedicated aircraft, BCAS also utilizes approximately 40 charter carriers, provincewide (both airplanes and helicopters) for patient care as needed.
BCAS is responsible for the operation and delivery of the dedicated helicopter air ambulance service. The estimated annual cost for the service is $2.35 million, which will come from within the existing Emergency Health Services Commission's budget.
Office of the Premier
Ministry of Health Communications
250 819-4258 (cell)
Interior Health Communications
250 314-2100 Ext 3752