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Temporary quarters keep crews well-rested on overnight shifts

05.16.2013 Operations Saskatoon

ATCO’s latest, generous donation to STARS is designed to help our air medical crew in Saskatoon fall asleep while at work.

With the air ambulance base operating 24 hours a day, our clinical and aviation staff need a place to rest when they aren’t flying and caring for patients, so the company donated a modular unit to be used as crew quarters for the time being.

Yves Bolduc, a pilot and captain in Saskatoon, said while nothing can beat the comforts of home, the temporary crew quarters are a close second.

“They are clean, they are warm and they fulfill a need for our base while we are in transition,” said Bolduc. “ ATCO was willing to provide these sleeping quarters to STARS on very short notice and support us in moving to 24-hour operations. It would have been impossible to offer the service without their support.”

The unit has eight beds in four rooms and kitchen and washroom facilities. It typically sleeps four crew members each shift, including two pilots, a flight nurse and a flight paramedic. A permanent hangar with crew quarters is expected to be ready later this year.

The Saskatoon base opened in mid-October, 2012 and began offering 24-hour operations on Feb. 25. To support the operation, five additional pilots were recruited and trained, along with seven additional flight paramedics and flight nurses. The flight crew on every mission includes two pilots, as well as an advance-care paramedic and registered nurse – both with critical-care training. An emergency physician trained in pre-hospital care and transportation is also available for every emergency response and travels in the helicopter whenever medically necessary.

All STARS pilots are trained and certified in the use of night vision goggles, a technology that STARS began using in 2003. The goggles significantly increase the ability to locate and reach patients at night. STARS is the only civilian helicopter air ambulance service in Canada to have a night vision goggle program.

Fred Matiko, who works for STARS foundation, said the modular unit donation is a $28,000 gift-in-kind, meaning it is practical, tangible support. It’s also the latest gift in a long-standing relationship between STARS and ATCO that began in Alberta in 1987.

“Over the years ATCO has donated $1.3 million to STARS,” said Matiko. “We are thrilled to grow and nurture this relationship in Saskatchewan.”

ATCO officials said the sentiment is mutual. “We are so pleased to be able to help STARS carry out regular missions in Saskatchewan,” said Harry Wilmot, president and chief operating officer, ATCO structures and logistics. “We are committed to the safety and health of the communities in which we work and live and are very glad to be able to provide living quarters for the pilots.”

Base manager, Cindy Seidel said she is thrilled to be working with local ATCO representatives to help get 24-hour operations off the ground in Saskatoon. “They were so incredibly responsive to our needs and provided us with crew quarters that are comfortable and in excellent shape,” said Seidel, adding the new hangar is expected to be completed in late fall.

Since beginning operations from our Regina base in April 2012, we have flown or rendered care to more than 300 patients in Saskatchewan.

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