MEDICINE HAT, AB — For the first time in its 12 years of operation, HALO Air Rescue has received funding from the provincial government.
Alberta Health Services is providing $1 million in a one-time grant to the air ambulance service in southeastern Alberta. The money will be used to help cover the yearly funding for the organization’s new twin-engine helicopter.
“We’ve been working at this for a long, long time,” said Dale Thacker, HALO chairman. “The light at the end of a 12 year tunnel is pretty sweet.
The organization says it costs approximately $2.6 million per year to cover the expenses of the new helicopter, which can fly at night, has more space for crew members, and can also travel faster.
The remaining funding will be covered by donations and fundraising, similar to previous years The organization’s previous helicopter will be used in a backup role.
Thacker says purchasing the twin engine helicopter helped open the door to discussions with AHS about funding.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, speaking over the phone from Edmonton, says the funding for HALO will ensure people get the care they need.
“We want to ensure families and patients anywhere in Alberta have access to quality care, and certainly with the new HALO 2, the new twin engine BK-117 helicopter, definitely helps us achieve that goal of making sure that patients throughout Alberta get the right care, in the right place, with the right provider. This funding is to help with the new helicopter, and we think it’s going to goa long way to helping serve folks in southeastern Alberta.”
Hoffman says the provincial election in the spring could determine future funding for health organizations. Members of the United Conservative Party passed motions during its policy meeting last may in favour of more private options for some health care services in Alberta, which is also mentioned in the policy declaration.
“This is going to be one of the questions all Albertans have a chance to weigh in on during the upcoming election,” she said. “Choosing what government we want to lead the future direction of the Province of Alberta. one that's going to invest in things like increasing funding for important services like air ambulance, or one that prioritizes cuts and privatization."
“These are important times, one of the reasons we’ve done one-time funding is we’re not in position to make commitments about the future, but the people of Alberta certainly are. We’re proud of investing in HALO in southeastern Alberta, and Albertans will have their chance to speak to that in the upcoming election.”
Thacker adds he is hopeful for more funding in the coming years for the organization following the election and a review of Helicopter EMS funding in 2020.
“I think there is no reason why this can’t be extended,” he said. “Once we get through the election phase, I’m pretty comfortable with the value we offer to Alberta Health Services and to the Alberta government is good value, and so I’m not concerned that the negotiations won’t continue on into the future.”
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