May 25th, 2017

Fixed-wing air ambulance service won’t be affected by contract switch, MLA says


By Gillian Slade on May 19, 2017.

The right to sign the fixed-wing air ambulance contract for the local region has been awarded to northern Albertas CanWest, but Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner says Hatters shouldnt be concerned about any change in level of service.--PHOTO COURTESY INTEGRA AIR


gslade@medicinehatnews.com 
@MHNGillianSlade

The successful bid for operating the fixed-wing air ambulance for Medicine Hat was awarded to a northern Alberta operation, but it will not affect the level of service here, says a local MLA.

“CanWest was the successful bidder in the request for proposals but they have not signed a contract as yet,” said Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner. “Those negotiations are being dealt with by Alberta Health Services, which is arm’s length from the province.”

Mayor Ted Clugston says CanWest does not meet the RFP requirements that specify the need for a base in Medicine Hat, and there is no serviced land available for CanWest to establish one.

Wanner says he has been assured the successful bidder must have a permanent base/hangar space in Medicine Hat and if they can’t get that they will not get the contract.

“There are negotiations going on between CanWest and the city in securing land at the municipal airport,” said Wanner. “At this juncture in the process, the city is much more in the driver’s seat than the province or the government. Those negotiations will be a crucial point.”

AHS issued the RFP last August for fixed-wing air ambulance services across the province. CanWest is reported to be in line to handle eight of 10 jurisdictions.

The whole manner in which this RFP has been handled raises a number of concerns, said Drew Barnes, Wildrose MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

“Bids have been awarded but they’re not finalized,” said Barnes. “If they do go ahead without the proper infrastructure citizens are at huge risk of less service.”

With one air operator handling eight of 10 regions for air ambulance service across the province AHS has almost all its eggs in one basket putting it in a vulnerable position, said Barnes.

“Costs could escalate considerably down the road if there is only one competitor/one provider,” said Barnes. “Albertans may pay dearly for it. Down the road we’re held at risk.”

Integra Air has had the contract to operate the fixed-wing air ambulance in this region for several years. The number of fixed-wing aircraft based in Medicine Hat was reduced in 2013 from two to one.

“Integra has deep, deep roots in the community,” said Wanner, who is appreciative of its scheduled daily flights to Edmonton.

AHS says there is no need for concern about continued air ambulance service in Medicine Hat at the same level as before.

“Service will continue to be provided by one fixed-wing air ambulance out of the regional airport,” chief paramedic Darren Sandbeck said Wednesday in an emailed statement.

Sandbeck also stated that the purpose of the RFP is to maintain existing air ambulance access, with 11 dedicated fixed-wing air ambulances based in 10 Alberta communities.Negotiations continue as part of this RFP process to ensure contracts are in place for Sept. 1.


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