Manitoba doctors oppose privatization of LifeFlight air ambulance service

Doctors working in the air ambulance of Manitoba believe that its planned privatization may adversely affect patients.

On this occasion, they wrote a letter to the Minister of Health Friesen, in which they spoke out against privatization categorically. The letter was signed by 16 specialists. The next step will be their meeting with the minister, at which they intend to prove their concerns reasonably.

Now air ambulance is operated by Manitoba Government Air Services but the federal government has plans to privatize the service and to bring it into private ownership, which causes serious concern among doctors. Now the main priority for air ambulance is patients’ safety, and therefore for almost 30 years of its work there has not been a single serious incident involving it. The transition to an operating model for receiving profit can seriously change this situation, doctors believe.

In their letter, the doctors note that all medical specialists and pilots of air ambulance have the highest level of training in their field, but they are not ready to work in conditions of increasing risks for patients. Doctors in the letter indicate that the introduction of financial incentives will have a negative impact on the work of the crew of air transport vehicles, because they may risk the health of patients and physicians for the sake of increasing their profits. Also, privatization will slow down the delivery of patients to medical institutions, because it will limit the types of air transport and the number of runways that will be used.

According to physicians, the inhabitants of the northern territories of the province and the indigenous population will suffer the most from privatization. The inhabitants of the south will receive medical assistance through the air much faster because the situation with the runways is much better.

Minister Friesen said he is ready for a dialogue with doctors. He noted that the government will not allow the deterioration of medical care for residents of the province in general and by LifeFlight service in particular.

President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union Gawronsky supported the doctors and noticed that the government should not hurry with the privatization. First, they should discuss this issue with medical professionals who have extensive experience and know all the specifics of the operation of the air ambulance. In her opinion, the government should first of all worry about the health of the patients and be engaged in the improvement of this vital service.

The leader of the NDP Wab Kinew stated that air ambulance is very important for rapid response in critical situations. He believes that the government should save on something else, and not on the service that saves the lives of the inhabitants of the province.

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