Patients in rural communities requiring specialized diagnostic tests and medical procedures will soon be able to take regularly scheduled flights to Winnipeg for care rather than travelling for hours on the road in an ambulance, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced Oct. 27.
For pat ients who need specialized medical tests or procedures not available in their home community, a long drive in an ambulance can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, said Oswald. We re pleased to fol low through quickly on this impor tant commitment to Manitobans to offer more comfortable and faster transportation for rural patients.
Currently, rural patients requiring inter-facility transports to a larger urban centre for more specialized care not available in their home community are transported in a road ambulance. There are approximately 20 inter-facility transports into Winnipeg every day.
Under the new air transport initiative, regular flights will be scheduled for patients facing longer ambulance rides of 2-1/2 hours or more from their local hospital or personal-care home to Winnipeg for testing and treatment. Each flight will be able to accommodate up to four patients and will be staffed with two paramedics and two pilots.
As an extension of the existing inter-facility transport program, patients will not be charged any fees for the flights. Inter-facility transport fees were eliminated in 2006.
This change will also allow more paramedics to work in their home communities, respond to local emergency needs and reduce long work hours spent transporting patients.
The program officially begins mid-November. Some patients will also be able to access scheduled flights from Brandon and communities in the northern Interlake region.
All patients requiring urgent and emergency care currently have access to air transfer using an air ambulance, LifeFlight and the new STARS ambulance helicopter. Patients in northern Manitoba have access to air ambulance transport for non-emergency care through the Northern Patient Transportation Program.
Inter-facility transports move patients between health-care facilities for diagnostic tests or treatment , rehabilitation or recovery. Physicians will approve transfers for patients who need medical care during the trip but whose condition is noncritical.