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Sunday , 24 January 2021

STARS gets M.D. support as service sees “significant” decrease in funding

A critical health care service has received funding once again from the M.D. of Bonnyville.

STARS Air Ambulance will be receiving $10,000 from the M.D. in 2021, as the municipality has continued their pledge of support.

In 2020, the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service responded to four calls on the scene in the Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and Kehewin areas, while also providing 41 transfers from local hospitals to other facilities. Since 2016, there has been 162 calls where STARS assisted.

“As the M.D. we see the service they provide. And it’s not a huge amount that we pay on an annual basis to help support them,” said Reeve Greg Sawchuk. “They’re continuing to carry out a job that is necessary.”

It has been a difficult fundraising year for the non-profit with fewer events to spur donations.

The STARS lottery, their biggest fundraiser, did not sell out in 2020, so there was $1.2 million shortfall in anticipated ticket sales.

Glenda Farnden, STARS senior municipal relations liaison, said $38 million is required to operate the three STARS bases in the province.

In her presentation to M.D. council on Wednesday, she highlighted the “significant” decrease in funding in all areas.

“It has really put us into a pickle as far as where are we going to go to try and make that up when we can’t host any events, we can’t have any golf tournaments. We can’t do any of that,” said Farnden.

“The last few years, it’s been really tough, but not due to COVID, just due to financials. The energy sector and a lot of other factors that really affected us here in Alberta really change the outcome of the lottery.

“So we’ve been really thinking outside the box and doing a lot of different fundraising aspects,” said Farnden.

A ten-year contract with Alberta Health Services that pays 20 per cent of the cost is set for review in September as well.

Farnden said in a typical year, STARS’ full mission volume would be 1400-1500 calls in Alberta–and their response is helping on the front-lines of the pandemic.

She said 13 per cent of the calls they’ve responded to since March have been suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases with air transfers to hospitals.

“We actually respond and are doing those types of missions in addition to what STARS is normally recognized for I guess,  as far as like medical conditions, trauma, heart attack, stroke and industry-related,” said Farnden.

The new STARS lottery has been running for almost a week, while calendars and merchandise are available to support the service.

Donations can be accepted at stars.ca.

“We’ve been here for 35 years serving Albertans. And we would not be here if it wasn’t for Albertans. So I think that says it all in a nutshell. We’re doing this together.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.