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STARS interested in three-year pledge from Town of Didsbury

Air ambulance has flown an average of 14.5 missions to Didsbury annually
MVT STARS landing at Didsbury
A STARS Airbus H145 helicopter lands at the Didsbury hospital helipad. Submitted photo

DIDSBURY - Council has been given an update on the STARS air ambulance service and its work in the district and province over the past 12 months. 

The review came during the recent regularly scheduled council meeting, with Glenda Farnden, senior municipal relations liaison with STARS, appearing as a delegation.

STARS would like the Town of Didsbury to make funding of STARS an annual budget item going forward, she said.

“I know it is a big ask but I want you to please consider joining the rest of our municipalities, to consider being one of our municipal leaders,” Farden said. “We need a regional partnership in your area. Municipal partnership is a way we have sustainability that we can count on every year.

“We are asking for your kind consideration to join other municipalities. I am asking for your consideration of a three-year pledge which would be in conjunction with your council term. We would greatly appreciate the partnership.”

STARS operates emergency response helicopters across the province, with the STARS emergency link centre located in Calgary. A 24 hour a day safety network base, the centre received more than 35,000 emergency requests in 2021.

“Sometimes there is no ground access so we’ve had lot of different types of scenarios where we are the only access to the patient,” she said.

COVID-19 related calls made up 18 per cent of all STARS calls during the pandemic, she said.

“We are still assisting a lot of rural community hospitals with COVID-related types of calls,” she said.

STARS recently updated its fleet, with10 new H145 helicopters now operating as airborne intensive care units. The machines are an improvement over the former BK117 aircraft, with increased range, speed, and more advanced avionics, she said.

Fundraising accounts for 80 per cent of STARS support, with the other 20 coming from government, she said.

Aviation operations account for 52 per cent of STARS cost, followed by 30 per cent for clinical operations.

Ninety per cent of Alberta municipalities have entered funding agreements with STARS to provide funding through line items in protective service budgets, based either on per capita or annual fixed-rate amounts, she said.

“We are trying to build these regional partnerships,” she said. “We are building our regional partnerships.”

Mountain View County already has an annual funding agreement with STARS, she said.

“Partnerships across the entire region across western Canada is the reason why STARS is able to provide critical anywhere,” she said.

An average of 53 STARS mission per year have been flown in the Mountain View County area over the past five years, including an average of 14.5 missions to the town of Didsbury, she said.

“When we look at Didsbury itself, you have a very busy hospital,” she said. 

The 14.5 missions per year in Didsbury represents about $100,000 in service value to local residents per year, she said.

Since 2010, more than 400 STARS missions have been flown into Mountain View County, including into the town of Didsbury.

Having a helipad at the Didsbury hospital has been invaluable, she said.

“I want to thank you for your foresight, your forward thinking to have a helipad located at your hospital,” she said. “There is no better project for future generations than to have a helipad located at the hospital.

“It alleviates multiple transfers for trauma patients who are already in dire straits. It alleviates having to tie up other resources so that they can now stall be available for other emergency calls.

“It visionary and it allows us to be an even better resource for your area and your residents. Your helipad is also assisting all of your neighbours.”

Mayor Rhonda Hunter called STARS an invaluable resource.

“It is wonderful that you are available,” she said.

Following Farnden’s delegation appearance council instructed administration to bring the STARS annual funding request to upcoming budget deliberations.

Dan Singleton

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