Air am­bu­lance ten­der awarded


The pro­vin­cial govern­ment an­nounced Fri­day it has awarded a ten­der for a fixed-wing air am­bu­lance to Pro­vin­cial Air­lines.

Out­side the House of Assem­bly Fri­day, Health Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy said the jet will be used for quick med­i­cal trans­port, es­pe­cially out of the prov­ince. The air­craft will also be backup for the two pro­vin­cial air am­bu­lances sta­tioned in St. John’s and Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay, when one is un­avail­able.

“ We feel this is a sig­nif­i­cant en­hance­ment to our air am­bu­lance ser­vice,” said Kennedy, adding the jet will be able to fly from St. John’s to Toronto in less than three hours. “ The out-of­province pa­tients are usu­ally chil­dren that re­quire car­diac care, pa­tients re­quir­ing trans­plants, and so now they will not have to stop in Hal­i­fax, for ex­am­ple, and re­fuel, which our King Air nor­mally has to do.”

The con­tract — Pro­vin­cial Air­lines beat one other bid for the ten­der — is for one year, and will cost $92,000 a month in a re­tainer fee plus “other re­lated costs,” ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the prov­ince. The cur­rent char­ter ser­vice meant to be re­placed by the new con­tract car­ries a re­tainer fee of $91,000 a month, but doesn’t have the abil­ity to fly long dis­tances with­out re­fu­elling.

The air­plane won’t be able to land at any of the coastal Labrador com­mu­ni­ties, but Kennedy said the Sea Kings aren’t able to ei­ther, and ru­ral New­found­lan­ders have had its air-am­bu­lance ser­vice im­proved with the mov­ing of an air am­bu­lance from St. An­thony to Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay, a move that drew crit­i­cism from St. An­thony.

“ This is not about the qual­ity of dis­con­tent in St. An­thony. This is about fur­ther en­hanc­ing of air am­bu­lance ser­vice that I in­di­cated in the House (of Assem­bly) on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions I would do,” he said. “ There was never any in­ten­tion for the jet or the King Airs to go into the small coastal com­mu­ni­ties.”

Kennedy said he has “nu­mer­ous letters” of sup­port from mov­ing the air am­bu­lance from St. An­thony to Happy Val­leyGoose Bay.

“ Now all com­mu­ni­ties are within 60 min­utes of an air am­bu­lance within this prov­ince,” he said.

The prov­ince’s seek­ing of a ten­der drew crit­i­cism late last week from the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic and Pri­vate Em­ploy­ees. Ed Ho­gan, em­ployee re­la­tions of­fi­cer for the as­so­ci­a­tion, said pri­va­tiz­ing the ser­vice would be “ab­so­lute fool­ish­ness.”

“If this is what they’re do­ing, it’s ab­so­lute fool­ish­ness. It’d be dev­as­tat­ing,” he told the North­ern Pen in St. An­thony. “ We rep­re­sent the pi­lots, the co-pi­lots, the ground crew (at East­ern Health), and I can tell you right now they’ll be ad­versely af­fected by this, and the rip­pling ef­fect will prob­a­bly go down to the paramedics that fly with the pa­tients.”

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