Representatives attended a luncheon hosted by the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club.
STARS has performed 12 missions to Prince Albert since opening its Saskatoon base in October of last year. From its bases in both Saskatoon and Regina, STARS has collectively conducted more than 275 missions.
Jeff Dickson, community relations representative for STARS, noted that the non-profit organization gets 50 per cent of its funding from the provincial government and 50 per cent through private donors.
“We work in partnership with government, service groups, communities, individuals -- anybody that wants to donate,” he said. “Again, we’re only 50 per cent funded from the government, so they gave us a 10-year contract for $10 million per year.”
Dickson said the air ambulance service would not be replacing any existing operations in the province.
“It’s the only rotary wing air ambulance that we have in the province,” he said. “We have a fixed wing air ambulance airplane, but this is the first helicopter air ambulance.”
When asked why he believes STARS is a better alternative to having a program that is entirely funded by taxpayers, Dickson explained that donors can take some ownership when they invest in STARS.
“There’s a little bit of ownership when we’re only 50 per cent funded by government, especially in small towns, smaller cities or smaller municipalities within the province,” he said.
Currently, STARS uses a BK117 helicopter, though PotashCorp has committed to donating $27 million for the purchase of an AW139 as a replacement -- slated to arrive at the end of 2013 or early 2014.
The STARS helicopter will land anywhere that is deemed safe, Dickson said, with the weight of the aircraft dependent on the equipment that is brought along for each mission.
STARS recently increased its operations at the Saskatoon base to run 24 hours a day. An extra five pilots and seven flight paramedics and nurses were recruited as a result.
Two pilots, a paramedic and a nurse carry out each mission. There is always access to a physician, even if one is unable to accompany the crew.
During his presentation, Dickson said each pilot must have a minimum of 3,000 flying hours. Following the presentation, he was unable to comment on the amount of training nurses and paramedics must have.
“We have a clinical aviation manager, so they look after that type of training,” he said. “I speak to the pilots. I know that for sure. But on the medical side, there are all kinds of procedures and quotas they have to maintain. I’m not in the medical field.”
It takes about $20-$21 million to fund STARS annually in Saskatchewan, according to Dickson. Former provincial finance minister Rod Gantefoer is the executive vice president of the STARS Foundation and oversees spending.
Dickson said the money raised in Saskatchewan stays in the province.