03/05/2013 12:07 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Alison Redford: Changing Edmonton Medevac Site Won't Harm Northern Patients (VIDEO)

EDMONTON - Alberta Premier Alison Redford says moving emergency air ambulance services will not put patients' lives at risk.

Redford says steps are being taken to ensure that emergency care remains the same for northern Albertans when fixed-wing air ambulance service is moved from Edmonton's centre the international airport south of the city.

"I am absolutely confident that the system that we have put in place will meet northern Albertans' needs just as well as before," Redford said in a video released Tuesday by her communications office.

On Monday, three dozen doctors signed an open-letter and held a news conference to warn that moving air ambulance service out of the City Centre Airport will result in longer response times, risk patients' health and possibly lead to deaths.

The group Save Our Medevac Service wants the province to either expropriate City Centre Airport land or delay the move until other solutions can be found. Edmonton city council voted in 2009 to close the airport and has been shutting it down in stages.

Medevac facilities are to be moved to the international airport, a 25-minute drive south of the Alberta capital, on March 15.

Redford said changes that have been made to that site will ensure patient safety is not compromised.

The province is building a six-bed, $6.5-million treatment area at the airport and has spent $25-million upgrading helicopter landing pads at major hospitals.

There is also to be dedicated ground ambulance service at the International Airport site.

Northern emergency cases are to be taken on a 12-minute STARS air ambulance helicopter ride from the major airport to one of Edmonton's major hospitals. The province says that matches the current response time when patients are taken by ground ambulance from the City Centre Airport.

About 3,000 patients are flown in yearly from northern Alberta. Redford said about five a month are emergency cases, which will use the STARS helicopter. STARS is getting a new helicopter that can fly in icy and hazardous winter conditions, she said .

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has also dismissed the doctors' concerns. He said "people just have to get used to change."

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