HALO Air Ambulance calls on province for funding to keep program in-flight

HALO Air Ambulance calls on province for funding to keep program in-flight
Mayors and reeves across southern Alberta are calling on the provincial government to help resuscitate the HALO Air Ambulance program .

HALO was first established in 2007 and operates primarily out of Medicine Hat, Alta.

Since its inception, the organization has relied solely on public and private donations. While officials say communities have been very generous, the program has never secured stable funding.

On July 31, a motion was passed in Taber by elected officials asking the provincial government to become that ongoing source of funding for the life-saving program.

Officials also passed a second motion, calling on the province to conduct an independent review of the helicopter EMS system in Alberta.

“Mayors and reeves in the counties in southern Alberta have been instrumental in the program since its inception and we’ve had lots of variable amounts of financial support over the years,” said Paul Carolan, director of funding for HALO Air Ambulance.

“The political support is something that we haven’t had a chance to really cultivate and now we’re seeing the results of that.”

In 2018, the organization reached a one-year agreement with Alberta Health Services, where they received $1 million with a stipulation the organization would acquire a new twin-engine helicopter.

Carolan said the new machine has almost tripled the organization’s expenses, causing the operating budget to surge from $750,000 a year to almost $2.6 million.

“The $1 million was never enough,” Carolan said.

“$2.6 million is the program cost but we were told that at that time all that was available was the $1 million.”

Carolan added that although the one-time donation from AHS was greatly appreciated, the agreement will soon expire on Oct. 1, leaving HALO $750,000 in the red with no money in sight to tide them over until the next batch of funding becomes available in 2020.

“It’s interesting to look at how we get from now to October. Then from October until the next helicopter medevac program review comes up in March of 2020,” he said.

While Carolan notes the amount needed to sustain this program is large, he hopes province can take the burden off local community members in funding the program he believes is vital to addressing emergent needs in southern Alberta.

“It makes a big difference when the program is as expensive as it is,” he said.

“Even though it’s far more affordable than other models in the province, it is still a lot of money to raise for one region of the province.”

HALO Air Ambulance has serviced more than 550 since its inception, with a focus on responding to emergency calls in rural and remote areas of southern Alberta.
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