WINNIPEG – Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA-Elect for St. Boniface, Dougald Lamont, said there is no question that the Pallister government’s plan to hand over Northern air ambulances to private, for-profit operators will put the safety of patients at risk and should be abandoned.
Because of federal regulations covering private and public operators, a private air ambulance jet wouldn’t be able to land on gravel runways, which are common in northern fly-in communities. This would exclude all but a handful of northern communities.
Instead, the air ambulance would have to downgrade to propeller planes, which travel more slowly, can’t fly over storms, and could add two hours to flights when minutes are at stake.
“The Pallister government’s plan to privatize air ambulances means the best planes for the job can’t even land in 23 of the communities they are supposed to serve,” said Lamont. “This is reckless, ill-considered and if Minister Schuler is true to his word in saying they will not proceed with the RFP if it is less safe, it should be abandoned immediately.”
Liberal Health Critic Dr. Jon Gerrard said that the delays associated with abandoning communities, and a faster air ambulance is unacceptable.
“In medical emergencies, like heart attack, strokes, or traumatic accidents, an extra hour of travel can make the difference between life and death,” said Gerrard.
Liberal MLA for Kewatinook, Judy Klassen, who represents several fly-in communities that would be directly affected, said the Pallister government is treating Manitobans in the north as second-class citizens.
“The province of Manitoba already has gaps in emergency services that need improving, but instead we are being put at greater risk. We need improved health care, not lower, slower care and response for northerners,” said Klassen.
Lamont also said that Pallister has contradicted himself when it came to a commitment to public safety and public services.
“When Pallister announced Manitoba’s approach to cannabis, he repeatedly said that government should do what it is good at - public safety - and that the private sector should do what it is good at - retail. Air ambulances are certainly not retail, and they should be owned and operated by the government and not for profit.”
- Submitted by - Manitoba Liberal Party