Home Ventilation system STARS Air Ambulance adds third helicopter crew rotation in Sask. to cope with the growing cases of COVID-19

STARS Air Ambulance adds third helicopter crew rotation in Sask. to cope with the growing cases of COVID-19


A doctor who works with the province’s helicopter air ambulance service says it was very important to bring in a third helicopter crew rotation to transport a growing number of patients across the province.

Dr Dallas Pearson says STARS Air Ambulance has been very busy transferring patients across the province after a growing number of COVID-19 cases.

As a province, “we are hitting records almost daily,” said Pearson, flight medic with STARS Air Ambulance and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

“And with that comes hitting daily critical care patient records.”

STARS commissioned the third helicopter and its crew from September 13 to prevent medical transfers from being overwhelmed. Staff members work overtime to ensure the shift is filled.

Dr Pearson told CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning that STARS, along with the Saskatchewan Fixed-Wing Air Ambulance Service, continue to perform their usual duties in addition to transferring COVID-19 patients.

As a result, the system has become very busy.

“As you can imagine, COVID is not spreading evenly across the province to make it easier for us,” he said.

“Thus, the need for an additional intensive care transport team became necessary as even the transport system became overwhelmed.”

Pearson said the added pressure from COVID-19 makes a complicated job even more difficult. Many different professionals from different regions are brought in each time a person is transported on a STARS helicopter, and full hospitals make the system even more complex.

“Sometimes we have to change locations mid-flight,” he said.

“Due to the extraordinary circumstances these drivers also have to be on their game to make decisions. It’s a huge team effort.”

While COVID-19 makes it difficult for the health care system, it is proving even more difficult for families. Pearson said it must be very difficult for people in remote communities to be so far away while their loved ones are sick.

“I can’t imagine how difficult it will be for loved ones not to be at the bedside immediately and not be in the same city,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pearson fears the number of COVID-19 cases in the system will continue to worsen, at least in the short term.

He said it’s important to have plans in place to make sure the system can handle the weight.

“STARS has been working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to try and develop other plans to see how much we can increase the capacity for both critical care patients within the system, as well as our ability to transport and transfer. these patients in intensive care.

“It’s better to have a plan in place and not needed than to have no plan and try to execute it at the last minute.”

It is not known how long the additional crew will be in place.