+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 5-09S

Critically Needed Dependable Operational Government Funding for STARS

January 1, 2009
Expiry Date:
March 31, 2012
Active Status:
MD of Fairview
4 - Northern
Emergency Services
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the Alberta Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) expanded its collaboratively funded critical care and transport services from its two original bases centered on the tertiary care centres in Edmonton and Calgary, and northwest into the Peace Region area; and

WHEREAS the Peace Country Health Region, now governed by Alberta Health Services, worked collaboratively with STARS to take first steps towards creating an integrated pre-hospital critical care system in the Peace Region and area, resulting in 337 medical care and transport missions from November 2006 to December 2008; and

WHEREAS STARS has received limited reimbursement for a total of 10 of the 337 missions based on the province’s rescue helicopter policy , since November 2006; and

WHEREAS 94% of the missions flown met or exceeded internationally accepted utilization criteria for Helicopter EMS; and

WHEREAS 88% of the missions flown in the Peace Region and area have been responses for non-industrial, community-based calls; and

WHEREAS Alberta’s health care system is in transition towards a model of integrated services improving quality, access and sustainability across the continuum of care;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to leverage the success of the collaborative STARS model into the fully integrated health care system being developed for all Albertans.

Member Background:

Access to high-quality health care services in rural areas is challenged by geographic dispersion of limited health care resources, health care provider recruitment, remote access, and high trauma risk due to agricultural, industrial and recreational activities.  These challenges will be compounded by an approaching wave of senior population growth as baby boomers are aging.  The STARS Grande Prairie Base was set up in 2006 in response to a request from Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Medical Services (GPREMS) representatives when they identified STARS as an effective solution to help address some of the looming issues that they were facing in this rural region.

STARS and Peace Country Health Region, working together, have achieved some of Alberta Health Services goals to enhance EMS services and rural access, monitor quality and performance, recruit and retain health care providers, and provide continuing education in critical care.  Municipalities in the Peace Region and area have recognized the improved access to high-quality, integrated EMS services throughout the region.

A STARS-conducted review of the Patient Care Reports for the Grande Prairie Bas demonstrated that 94% of the medical missions flown were compliant with utilization criteria set by the Air Medical Physicians Association (AMPA).  84% met medical criteria while a further 10% met criteria for appropriate use when there were access issues or when Advanced Life Support transport was required and ground EMS resources were not available.

The municipalities throughout the Peace Region see a window of opportunity for the current health care transition to leverage the success of the integrated STARS model.  The service could be expanded and networked with ground and air ambulance services throughout the province for better delivery of critical care for all Albertans.

The viability of the STARS collaborative model relies on funding from a variety of stakeholders.  Municipalities throughout the Peace Region have shown unanimous support of STARS day-to-day operations through per capita funding as well as a significant number of urban municipalities.  Funding has ranged from $2.00 up to $20.00 per capita.  The Government of Alberta has been a key partner in sustaining the success of STARS’ Edmonton and Calgary operations through funding grants.  The existing STARS service based in Grande Prairie will not be viable and an expanded, integrated STARS service, to include all Albertans, will not be possible without the partnership of the Government of Alberta.

RMA Background:

Resolution ER1-08F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC lobby the Ministers of Health and Transportation on behalf of the rural residents of Alberta to find a way to maintain the speed of patient transport should the Edmonton City Center Airport be closed.

Resolution 5-08F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Alberta Government Health and Wellness Department include the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties as a major stakeholder in all future consultations regarding the renewed model for patient-centered and coordinated EMS to allow input on decisions that may have a negative impact on other municipal emergency services or cause increased costs for delivering these other services.

Government Response:

Health and Wellness:
In addition to the two helicopters based in Edmonton and Calgary, the Alberta air ambulance program consists of 12 dedicated fixed wing aircraft based in ten locations throughout Alberta, including one in Grande Prairie and two in Peace River.  Approximately 6,000 patients are flown by fixed wing aircraft and 1,200 by helicopter each year.
On April 1, 2009, the health system became responsible for emergency medical services (EMS) in Alberta.  Planning for EMS, including both air and ground ambulance, needs to be done in the context of the larger health system planning, which is a key deliverable of integration of EMS with the health system.      
There are many competing priorities within the health system.  Alberta Health Services must balance these priorities within the budget it has available, and no funding is available to support additional helicopter base locations at this time.


On April 1, 2010, Alberta Health Services assumed responsibility for ensuring air ambulance services are available across the province.  Subsequently, the STARS base in Grande Prairie started receiving partial funding similar to the Edmonton and Calgary bases for the first time in its history as part of a new agreement with Alberta Health Services. In the new funding model, Alberta Health Services will support STARS with $5.488 million annually over each of the next 10 years. Approximately 25 per cent of STARS total mission costs is funded by Alberta Health Services and the remaining 75 per cent from STARS fundraising and community partnerships. With this in mind, the AAMDC accepts that the intent of this resolution has been met.

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