Lifeflight air ambulance program now being overseen by provincial Shared Health department

Manitoba’s Lifeflight air ambulance program, which transports critically ill or injured patients from beyond a 200-kilometre radius of Winnipeg, is now being overseen by the Shared Health department, the province’s health minister announced Oct. 25.

Created earlier this year, Shared Health is a department designed to co-ordinate various health care activities previously managed by multiple departments to integrate and improve their provision throughout Manitoba.

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Shared Health assumed responsibility for delivering emergency medical services and patient transport - excluding municipally operated ambulance services like those in Thompson, Brandon and Winnipeg – in April, and the transfer of Lifeflight management puts air and land transport under the day-to-day management of the same department.

“Over the past few months, our medical and clinical teams have been working closely with the Lifeflight leadership and staff to support critical care inter-facility transports from across Manitoba,” said Shared Health’s chief medical officer for emergency response services Dr. Rob Grierson in a press release. “We are committed to improving patient care across the province and will be working with our partners to develop a new model of care that is able to meet the emergency and transport needs of patients across the province.”

Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen said having one organization in charge of all patient transport “will allow for the development of an improved, fully connected model of care for all patients in need of critical care, emergency, urgent and non-urgent emergency response."

Critical care medical air services in Manitoba are provided by adult, neonatal and paediatric transport teams within Shared Health, as well as Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) and Lifeflight. Staffing of these air services depends upon individual patient’s needs and can include flight nurses with advanced critical care training and experience, physicians, advanced practice respiratory therapists and advanced care paramedics. Forty per cent of transports between April 1 and Oct. 23 were provided by child transport teams, which were transferred to the Shared Health department in April.

“Integrating emergency response services and patient transport will result in improved service for Manitobans,” said Friesen.

Other medical departments whose management was taken over by Shared Health beginning last April included diagnostic services in the Winnipeg and Prairie Mountain regional health authorities, Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, digital health in all regional health authorities as well as in Manitoba eHealth and CancerCare Manitoba, medical assistance in dying staff and some Winnipeg Regional Health Authority mental health program services.

A request for proposals (RFP) to look for other ways to provide air ambulance services in a more efficient manner was issued in 2018 and that RFP process continues, said Friesen. 

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