$10,000 donation will help bring dedicated rapid-response air ambulance helicopter service to Prince George and northern B.C.
Prince George businessman Laurie Saindon knows the difference a helicopter can make in an emergency. A rapid-response helicopter staffed by highly-trained first responders can reduce the time it takes to bring definitive medical care, which can mean the difference between life and death. The co-owner of Tempest Aviation Group also realizes a wide expanse of northern B.C. lacks a dedicated air ambulance helicopter and to address that need his company has donated $10,000 to the not-for-profit Northern B.C. Helicopter Emergency Response Operations Society (H.E.R.O.S.) to help launch the service.
“It’s high time we get something in the North here,” said Saindon. “You look at other provinces that have air ambulance helicopters – Alberta has it totally covered and we’re just left in the dark here.”
With icy highways a fact of life in northern B.C., the risk of a serious accident increases exponentially in the winter months. Last winter on Highway 16 from Prince Rupert to the B.C./Alberta border, 13 people died in eight accidents in a two-month stretch from early November to mid-January.
“We know this [helicopter] business and it’s all about response time, and there are so many holes here,” said Saindon. “When you get halfway between Prince George and Vanderhoof you’re 45 or 50 minutes away from the city in a ground ambulance, but in a helicopter you get there in half the time. People don’t give it much thought until it happens to someone who’s close to them, until it’s their father, mother or daughter.” Saindon says while it is possible for first responders to hire private helicopter companies to provide emergency transport for accident scene calls or transfer patients from community hospitals to UHNBC, the situation is far from ideal. What we need is a dedicated EMS helicopter, something that is always ready at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, there is nothing presently that can meet the required needs.
The H.E.R.O.S. helicopter will be stationed at a base staffed by flight crews and paramedics, ready to launch within minutes of receiving an emergency call. Pilots can be equipped with night-vision technology to allow night-time flights to remote areas in most weather conditions. The H.E.R.O.S. organization will work together with the B.C. Ambulance Service and other first responders, Northern Health, all three levels of government and First Nations to develop an operational plan.
“The H.E.R.O.S. helicopter will be like a flying emergency room and intensive-care unit,” said H.E.R.O.S. executive director Roberta Squire. “This need is very real for the remote workforce, including employees and their families who need prompt access to emergency medical care. A properly-equipped helicopter can bring the hospital to the patient.”
The group will continue to encourage donations from local businesses like Tempest and will seek additional funding from governments, corporations and private individuals to help bring the service to Prince George within the next year.