STARS offers time, hope and life-saving transport to critically ill and injured patients.

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Manitoba missions on the rise


More pre-alerts. More missions. More lives saved in Manitoba.

When a major emergency happens time can seem to slow down for those waiting for help to arrive. Reducing time barriers is fundamental to saving lives, and new emergency dispatch criteria introduced in November are helping STARS to reach patients faster and more often. 

“We are now responding to more than one emergency call a day, which is consistent with what we see in other regions in which we operate,” said Winnipeg base director and pilot, Dave Harding.

“We are pleased that STARS is out there helping more often in the community and working as part of a broader provincial health-care team,” said Helen Clark, Chief Operating Officer for emergency response and patient transport with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).

In January for example, STARS flew 34 missions, compared with 12 missions last October, before the new dispatch criteria were introduced. 

The new criteria were developed in partnership with the WRHA and input from emergency
physicians, and meant to ensure STARS is activated early during an emergency which has
the potential of involving a critically ill or injured patient. After a call is placed to 9-1-1, dispatchers with Manitoba’s Medical Transportation Coordination Centre (MTCC) determine the appropriate services to send. Decisions are based on the initial information provided by the caller, and the new pre-set dispatch criteria.

“The expanded criteria ensures STARS launches when we know there is a high likelihood of a critical patient needing rapid transport and medical interventions,” said Harding.

There are now more than 80 different criteria which may generate an automatic STARS pre alert, such as high-speed collisions, heart attacks, strokes, serious burns, drowning, electrical shocks and stabbings. The protocols are similar to how the program works in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and many other areas with helicopter EMS programs.

Harding said with increased mission volume comes an enhanced understanding of STARS and the value of the critical-care team working in the back of the helicopter.

“In addition to speed, STARS is dispatched because of the specialized critical care that can be provided by the flight nurse, paramedic, and emergency doctors,” said Harding.

“Specialized critical care can begin from the time STARS arrives, versus waiting until a patient travels to a major hospital.”

An added benefit is that local medical expertise (including doctors, nurses, and paramedics) can continue serving in their community, instead of having to travel long distances with patients to receive specialized care at a larger hospital.

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