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'Severe weather' prevented 2 aircraft from transporting emergent patient from Grand Manan to the mainland: Ambulance N.B.

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The MLA who represents Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick says it’s been too long since the island has had reliable air ambulance service – and she wants to see it fixed.

Progressive Conservative MLA Andrea Anderson-Mason came out, on her own accord, to speak to reporters at the New Brunswick legislature Wednesday about a situation the night before that she feels illustrates the urgency of the need for a permanent service.

“It was a 76-year-old stroke victim. And we all know that stroke victims, they need attention immediately,” she said. “We are going on almost two years right now that air ambulance has not been reliable for the residents of Grand Manan. And it is getting incredibly frustrating.”

Ambulance New Brunswick (ANB) confirmed in a statement that on the evening of May 28, they received a request for an air ambulance transfer from the Grand Manan Hospital.

The island doesn’t currently have permanent air ambulance service, but since March, ANB has been using a back-up aircraft when necessary, depending on pilot staffing, maintenance and its availability.

A spokesperson for ANB said that backup plane was dispatched, but “severe weather prevented the plane from completing the transfer.”

They then sought the help of the Canadian Forces Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) helicopter, based in Greenwood, N.S.

“The JRCC helicopter did attempt to land on the island, but could not due to severe weather,” said ANB spokesperson Eric Robichaud.

He said in the event an aircraft can’t safely land, paramedics will transport the patient by land, which means going on the ferry – a trip that can take one-and-a-half to two hours.

A permanent air ambulance solution was announced in February for the island, promised to be in place by September. Anderson-Mason said that’s after two years of not having service – and she’s worried about further hold-ups.

“It's a constant concern that we have. You know, I remember in December of 2022, mayor and council actually came here to meet with the premier, and we were assured at that time that there would be a rapid response. But here we are in May of 2024, and there's still such uncertainty for the residents of Grand Manan,” she said.

She says one of the hold-ups is securing the funding for the building of a hanger on the island to house the plane.

New Brunswick Health Minister Bruce Fitch said the municipality is waiting to hear from the department of local government on that funding.

“I don't have the timeline for the hangar, but that was one of the items to have the plane stationed there for the protection of the plane and the crew,” Fitch said. “I had the target timeline in my mind of this fall and I don't have any reason to believe they will be falling off that timeline.”

No one could confirm the condition of the patient who had to be transported off the island.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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