EMS Wins Prestigious Air Medical Award

AHS flight team recognized for leadership, coordination and safety

Alberta Health Services EMS Fixed Wing Air Ambulance service has been selected as the winner for the Fixed Wing Award of Excellence, sponsored by LifePort, and based on AHS’ leadership in resource and patient coordination, clinical care and outstanding aviation safety.

Story by Erin Lawrence & Carmen Bateman

Alberta Health Services (AHS) Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has won a prestigious international award for excellence in the delivery of the Air Medical services it provides to Albertans.

AHS EMS Fixed Wing Air Ambulance has been selected as the winner for the Fixed Wing Award of Excellence. The award is given out annually by the Association of Air Medical Services (AAMS), a non-profit association with a focus on quality, safety and effective medical care in the Air Medical and Critical Care Ground transport industry.

“This award is based on leadership in resource and patient coordination, clinical care and outstanding aviation safety,” says Darren Sandbeck, Chief Paramedic, AHS EMS.

“We couldn’t have done it without the collaborative support of everyone on our Air Medical team. It just goes to show the strength of our team and that their hard work is being recognized internationally. I couldn’t be more proud.”

AHS EMS oversees the operation of 11 King Air aircraft — nine King Air 250 jets and two King Air 200 turbo props — based in 10 communities across the province. Each year, Air Medical services transports more than 7,000 patients.

At the hub of this dynamic operation is a comprehensive Air Operations Center (AOC) in Edmonton.

“This facility, based at Edmonton International Airport, is the main transition point for the majority of patients where they are also able to receive medical care,” says Gordon Bates, Associate Executive Director, Provincial Air Ambulance & Inter-Facility transfer Strategy at AHS.

“An example of how a patient may use this facility is that they may be coming in from rural or distant locations to get life-saving cancer treatment in Edmonton, and they would transition through the AOC. This facility is unique in Alberta and across Canada and serves approximately 5,000 patients every year.”

The AOC features a six-bed Patient Transition Room, staffed with paramedics who can provide a comfortable care setting to all patients, while air and ground resources are coordinated to and from the airport and area hospitals or care centres.

As part of the overall service delivery, the provincial AHS EMS Dispatch system greatly contributes to this complex coordination over large distances.

Located next to the Patient Transition Room is the main hangar, which acts as a transport hub as well as a patient reception and triage area. The hangar area also plays a central role in disaster response — and was used during two recent evacuations from northern communities which were threatened by wildfires.

“During the Fort Mc Murray fires in 2016, 111 patients were evacuated from the Fort McMurray hospital and cared for at the AOC,” says Bates, “while last June, AHS Fixed Wing resources brought approximately 50 Long Term Care residents in 24 hours to the Edmonton AOC, where they were taken care of and transported to temporary care facilities for the duration of the fire evacuation.”

The Fixed Wing Award of Excellence — also sponsored by LifePort, a world leader in the design, manufacture and certification of a wide range of mission equipment products for the aviation industry — will be presented to AHS at the Air Medical Transport Conference this November in Atlanta.