The Province of Manitoba has suspended its air ambulance service while officials investigate the death of a woman who died after being transported by the service.
On Monday afternoon, officials announced the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society would be temporarily suspended on the advice of medical professionals.
Health Minister Erin Selby told reporters she has instructed her department to suspend STARS flights after concerns were raised about the woman's death
According to officials, the female patient went into cardiac arrest late in the evening on Nov. 28 and was taken from somewhere in the province's southern health region to Winnipeg for further care. Provincial officials said the woman had been cleared for takeoff, but after landing in Winnipeg, died.
Provincial officials have deemed her death as a critical incident and are now investigating to determine what sort of oxygen the woman was given and if it was adequate. More specifically, investigators will determine what, if anything, happened on board that had an impact on the woman’s death.
The province is also having an external reviewer look at 15 cases.
Gerry Delorme, the province's executive director of health emergency management, joined Selby at the press conference and told reporters that based on this incident and two others "basic medical practice and basic medical advice appears not to have been followed."
STARS operates a helicopter air ambulance service in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The society was founded in Alberta in 1985, and in 2011, Manitoba signed a 10-year agreement with the society that would see the helicopter and its crew provide support to the province. Since signing the agreement, the air ambulance has flown nearly 700 missions in the province.
The suspension only applies in Manitoba, and officials said a contingency plan is now in place to deal with cases that require an air ambulance. Lifeflight and a basic air-ambulance service will be expanded into Manitoba's southern communities.
Officials added Manitoba Health currently operates 24 basic air ambulances and two Lifeflight jets that are staffed by a physician.
Toddler's case puts spotlight on air ambulance
Earlier this year, the society became the subject of a lawsuit after a toddler suffered brain damage shortly after being transported by STARS.
Morgan Moar Campbell, age 2, was picked up by a STARS crew in Brandon on May 2 and rushed to Winnipeg’s Children’s Hospital.
He was sedated during the flight and had a breathing tube inserted in his throat. The tube somehow came out while he was being moved from the helicopter to an ambulance in Winnipeg, according to Morgan’s parents, Blair Campbell and Emily Moar.
Moar suffered brain damage as a result.
The family's lawyer, Robert Tapper, told CBC the family was appalled by the latest development with STARS on Monday.
Manitoba Health is currently reviewing the incident.