By Jeremy Deutsch
Kamloops This Week
Residents in Kamloops and the surrounding region who find themselves in a medical emergency in remote areas can now count on help from the sky.
The provincial government has announced permanent funding for a dedicated helicopter air-ambulance service for the region, was to be begin on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
The service will operate seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from a base near Kamloops Airport.
“It will make a difference for the people of the Interior. It will literally save lives,” said Premier Christy Clark, who was on hand for the announcement.
The cost of the service is $2.3 million annually through the Interior Health Authority.
The new air-ambulance service comes after an eight-week pilot project last summer in Kamloops, in which a dedicated helicopter was in place 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
During the pilot project, the B.C. Ambulance Service (BCAS) critical-care transport helicopter was deployed 62 times, transporting patients 33 times to hospitals in Kamloops, Kelowna and Vancouver.
After the trial, the service continued as needed through a chartered helicopter operator.
Randy MacLeod, a critical-care paramedic unit chief, noted the BCAS has been working to get a team in place for more than a year and is ready to start the service.
The air-ambulance unit has a staff of four dedicated to the machine itself, with a total staff of eight running the service.
“It will make a profound difference in our capability to respond to patients, not just in Kamloops, but now to significant areas across the Interior,” MacLeod said.
The new service is also being greeted with praise from city politicians.
Mayor Peter Milobar, who acknowledged he has been critical of the IHA and its handling of health care in the city, called the announcement “good news.”
He said the new service will help rectify some of his concerns, adding he intends to work proactively with the health authority on future issues.
There are now four dedicated helicopter-ambulance services in the province: Two based in Vancouver, one in Prince Rupert and one in Kamloops.
As for Clark’s visit to the Tournament Capital, she planned to meet with local businesses and companies to discuss job creation.
The premier was also asked about a possible fall election, to which she replied she spent her summer focusing on job creation, adding she looked forward to the fall sitting of the legislature.