REGINA - STARS Saskatchewan welcomed a new member to its fleet this week, one that president and CEO Andrea Robertson said will improve the crew’s ability to provide the best medical care possible to patients.
The Airbus H145 joined the crew earlier several weeks ago and will replace one of the retiring legacy helicopters currently in operation.
Robertson shared that the new air ambulance features more power, allowing STARS crews to take off even in tough weather conditions, as well a fully automated system and a closed tail rotor for increased safety.
“We fly into some challenging areas to land,” said Robertson. “And so this is going to make us far more efficient and responsive across all of our provinces.”
The H145 also features an interior specially arranged for patient treatment, with a self-contained stretcher system and loading access at the rear of the helicopter’s cab, designed in consultation with the STARS medical crew.
The switch is part of an ongoing commitment from the provincial government to help upgrade the STARS fleet across western Canada, as the current aircrafts in use are no longer serviceable for the future.
“It’s not that it’s done, it's that we can’t get parts for it anymore,” said Robertson. “And when you are in a 24/7 obligation to the population, you need to make sure that you’re available to do that for decades to come.”
The new H145 was officially dedicated to STARS founder and supporter Rod Gantefoer, with the unit’s callsign noted as “C-GFRG” — the last three letters standing for “Founder Rod Gantefour.”
Base director Cindy Seidl and former STARS patient Carrie Derin thanked Gantefoer for his work in bringing STARS medical services to Saskatchewan, as a much-needed expansion to rural healthcare.
“STARS fills a gap in our healthcare system that you would never know was there until you needed it,” said Derin, who suffered an accident 8 years ago and was one of the first few calls that STARS Saskatchewan responded to.
Welcoming the new airbus was a great moment for Seidl, as one of the medical personnel who will be operating inside its new-and-improved confines to provide care.
“You share a bond with that patient that nobody else can understand,” said Seidl. “And it's so exciting because having this brand new aircraft allows us, with great assurance, to know that we will be here for many years to come to provide critical care.”
STARS pilots will continue to train on the new H145 unit this summer, as it is integrated fully into the air ambulance’s service.
As the renewal initiative continues, each new airbus will cost STARS approximately $13 million for the helicopter and necessary medical equipment, which is the primary focus of fundraising efforts at this time.
The first of the updated H145 airbuses arrived in Saskatchewan in mid-2019, with this addition being the second added to hangars in Regina. It is also the fifth out of ten new air ambulances to be replaced within the interprovincial fleet.
Officials are aiming to complete the fleet renewal sometime in 2022, provided funds can be secured to purchase the remaining aircrafts needed.