+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 8-16S

Provincial Funding for Regional Air Ambulance Services

March 15, 2016
Expiry Date:
April 1, 2019
Active Status:
Cypress County
1 - Foothills-Little Bow
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) provides emergency helicopter air ambulance services centred out of Edmonton, Calgary and Grande Prairie, and

WHEREAS response to outlying rural areas of Alberta is limited, and

WHEREAS the Government of Alberta does not fund locally or regionally operated helicopter air ambulance services such as Helicopter Air Lift Operation (HALO) in south-eastern Alberta, leaving them to rely wholly on funding from municipalities and donations of private individuals and responsible corporate partners, and

WHEREAS regionally operated helicopter air ambulance services perform a vital service that complements ground ambulance and STARS air ambulance;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta provide funds to local and regionally operated emergency response air ambulance services at the same ratio as Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) funding.

Member Background:

Local or regionally operated emergency response helicopter services are still needed in addition to Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS).  In south-eastern Alberta, Helicopter Air Lift Operation (HALO) medevac rescue helicopter has operated out of Medicine Hat since 2007. HALO provides residents of Cypress County, 52 surrounding communities, and vast remote areas, with improved patient care and decreased transport times for critically ill or injured people at no cost to the patient. HALO provides the people living, working, and playing within 160 km of the City of Medicine Hat and beyond with a dedicated medevac rescue helicopter in coordination with the network of ground based ambulances. A typical HALO mission involves a round trip flight time of under 1 hour 20 minutes.

Cost of operating HALO is about $850,000 per year. HALO is a valuable resource to other public service departments and is an integral part of emergency response planning at the corporate, municipal, and regional levels. HALO is available to serve the community in a variety of ways including search and rescue, and disaster response. This program allows the communities within a vast response area the best possible access to rapid, advanced medical care in an emergency. HALO is dispatched through the STARS Emergency Link Centre and is a vital asset to the emergency responders in southeast Alberta and southwest Saskatchewan. The helicopter is outfitted with a Lifeport MedPak system and MedDek stretcher system.

The availability of the helicopter decreases response times of paramedics to trauma victims in remote or inaccessible areas. Even with the new longer range STARS helicopters, regional medical helicopters still provide a quicker response.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Expired resolution: 5-09S: Critically Needed Dependable Operational Government Funding for STARS

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.

Government Response:

Health: Our government is committed to ensuring Albertans are well served by the network of air ambulance services in our province. We value the rescue helicopter service provided by Helicopter Air Lift Operation (HALO) to Albertans and recognize the importance of this service within our health care system.

We look forward to continuing our relationship with HALO and ensuring a strong network of air ambulance services exist.

Treasury Board and Finance: Alberta Treasury Board and Finance (TBF) officials have discussed this resolution with Alberta Health officials. TBF agrees with Alberta Health’s response and has no further input.


The Government of Alberta’s response and continued inequity in funding for these services fails to address the request for equitable funding ratios between STARS and other air ambulance services, as STARS receives funding from the Government of Alberta sufficient to cover 20% of its operating costs, while other air ambulance providers such as HALO are compensated only based on individual dispatches, and rely on municipal contributions and private donations to cover ongoing operating expenses. This resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met and RMA will continue to advocate on this issue.

Provincial Ministries:
Treasury Board and Finance
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