The Portage la Prairie Rotary Club heard from representatives of the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) Foundation during Tuesday’s meeting.
The Province of Manitoba signed a multi-year agreement with the STARS air ambulance last year, which is currently costing $10 million per year. This helps to cover maintenance to the helicopters, operational costs, as well as training for the employees of STARS.
Melanie Vieira is a flight paramedic who has been working for STARS since November of 2012. She explained that the medical personnel are cross-trained in order to do all the jobs necessary during a flight.
“When we come into STARS air medical crew we generally have quite a bit of experience. When we start our training with STARS all the medics and nurses start receiving the same training. At the end of it, we could essentially function in either seat,” said Vieira.
But the training doesn’t stop after the initial start up it continues over the career of the paramedic or nurse with STARS.
“It’s ongoing training. We have quarterly requirements that we have to meet. In a year there is so much training we have to do, and over two years there are requirements that we have to meet. It is very much ongoing and mostly physician led,” said Vieira.
The feedback that she has been getting from families of patients assisted by STARS has been very positive.
“They are generally pleased that this patient is getting where they need to be a lot faster. They are pleased that their family is getting that high level of care that we do provide from the sending facility or scene to the receiving facility,” said Vieira.
STARS also spoke with the club in order to peak interest in donations to keep the air ambulance a free service for families it assists.
“It’s huge because right now we’re at the point in our tenure here in the province where it’s all about advocacy and it’s all about communication. In order to get support people have to first know who we are,” said Shandy Walls, manager of major gifts for the Manitoba branch of STARS. “A group like Rotary is really to us the best vehicle because we are talking to them directly and they are leaders in the community, they are business owners, and they are people who really care deeply about their community.”
When Walls goes out on these type of presentations to the public she often hears a lot of questions about the types of calls that the STARS chopper responds to as well as questions about the way that STARS is funded.
Statistics presented recorded that 59 per cent of calls for the STARS helicopter service are inter-facility transfers while 41 per cent are scene calls. Scene calls can be broken down into: motor vehicle collisions (49 per cent), medical (14 per cent), recreation (13 per cent), SAR and other (five per cent), industrial (three per cent), and agricultural (three per cent).
While the government of Manitoba provides funding to keep the service running STARS is also seeking grassroots support as well. One such initiative that will help build this support is Manitoba version of the CEO Rescue in the Rockies which has been successful in Alberta.
“Basically, we take CEOs from companies in the province, they come to the base in the morning. We start off with a breakfast, we have a little media tour, and then we fly them off to the undisclosed remote island. They will be there probably four to five hours only with their telephones raising funds and calling people,” said Walls. “Once they’ve raised successfully their $100,000 then we pick them up and fly them back and we are going to be having a reception at Assiniboine Park that evening.”
Calgary has had five oil and gas CEOs, which have raised $2.5 million in the last two years. It is expected that Manitoba may need a few more in order to reach that $1 million yearly goal. One CEO already scheduled to take part is McCallister Farms owner Chris McCallister from Portage la Prairie.
For more information on how you can donate to STARS visit www.stars.ca.