By Stan Ashbee
Westwind Weekly News
HALO Rescue has been servicing southern Alberta since 2007, but for the better part of 12 years the organization used a “rescue helicopter,” — which was a single engine, said Director of Fundraising Paul Carolan.
“A really good machine, but we couldn’t access the patient from above the waist down. But, very affordable. That helicopter — we were able to run for about $850,000 a year.”
Alberta Health Services (AHS), he noted, told the organization HALO would never be seen as a real player in the medevac world. “So we got a twin-engine helicopter,” he added. “It’s a real air ambulance.”
“It has full-patient capacity in the back,” he said.
Carolan explained the new helicopter is well-equipped for southern Alberta and area and it’s a really good machine for this part of the country. “It doesn’t really care too much about winds — which we get a lot of and it has a lot of power, as far as lift is concerned. Those things really make a difference.”
But, adding the new helicopter came with a significant increase in the budget — almost triple, he said. “Our annual budget now is $2.6 million. Therefore, we need to make sure we are pursuing multiple avenues of funding — provincial, municipal and county, as well as private and industry donations we’ve always been able to rely on,” he said.
So far this year, HALO has completed approximately 90 missions and the new helicopter has increased capacity and it has helped change what missions are accepted, which is good news for the area.
“It’s faster and it can also land at any helipad,” he said. “It can land at the Foothills Hospital at the elevated helipad. We just have a bigger capacity. Therefore, we can be used for more.”
Aside from a few fundraising events throughout the year, what HALO needs to do now is figure out where and how much sustained funding is needed from the provincial government,” Carolan said.
“We’ve been working really heavily on that,” he said. Representatives from HALO have met with the Alberta health minister in the past few weeks. One item on the table for possible discussion is HALO being funded at the same level as STARS Air Ambulance.
“That’s what we are pursuing at the moment. We’re just waiting to see what happens with that,” he added.
According to HALO, the rescue organization offers the only dedicated medevac helicopter for southern Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan. It is a much-needed contribution to the already established air and ground ambulance service provided by AHS — Emergency Medical Services. The availability of the helicopter improves response time to trauma victims in remote or inaccessible areas and increases coverage area for delivering qualitative medical care. HALO has been dispatched on over 550 missions since its inception.