By Anna Smith, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Concerns have been expressed by both Cypress County and the Alberta Opposition regarding a report released at the end of June, regarding  helicopter emergency service in Alberta.

The Helicopter Emergency  Medical Services (HEMS) report contains 11 recommendations for change in  currently available service, but concerns have been raised surrounding  the proposition to make Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) the  dedicated service in the province.

For citizens that rely on  services such as HERO, based out of Fort McMurray, and HALO, which  operates out of Medicine Hat, these changes could mean much greater  delays in response time. HALO comes in the MD of Taber area as well.

“Folks  in the Medicine Hat area and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo,  have been expressing concern for some time about a lack of provincial  support for their local air ambulance services,” said David Shepherd,  the Critic of Health for Alberta’s Opposition. “I’m incredibly  disappointed that what this report appears to be saying is that Health  Minister Shandro intends to abandon the provincial relationship with  community rescue helicopter organizations. They are recommending that  the government of Alberta go forward with a sole monopoly contract for  stars, and that they provide the funding only for them to provide  services across the province of Alberta.”

A press release by  Cypress County adds the fact that STARS is unable to provide emergency  response past Medicine hat hospital without refuelling, which could mean  significant delays in response to rural Albertans and those in Cypress  Hills Provincial Park.

“In  an emergency when seconds matter, a 12-minute medical response from  Medicine Hat is vital,” said Reeve Dan Hamilton in a press release,  “Citizens in the southeast of Alberta pay taxes too, their lives should  be treated with just as much respect as those in the major centres, we  should not be treated as second class citizens. Cypress Hills is a  Provincial Park receiving thousands of visitors year-round, the Province  should be responsible to ensure appropriate emergency response is  available. HALO is not asking for STARS level of funding, not even  close, they just need predictable and stable funding to continue the  essential work they do as an emergency service in the Southeast.”

This item is reprinted with permission from the Medicine Hat, AB, Prairie Post. For the complete article, click HERE

If you wish to comment on this story, click HERE for the Discussion Board at