WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s beleaguered STARS air ambulance program has only flown four missions since it resumed service March 7, costing taxpayers $288,461 per flight since then and $721,154 per flight so far in 2014.
The Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, which was supposed to raise $2 million a year in corporate and other donations to help defray the costs for taxpayers, only raised $177,000 in 2012-13 and is struggling to raise funds in the wake of the Selinger government’s bungling of the program. They actually lost money on fundraising in 2012-13.
STARS was grounded last December after a string of bad medical outcomes and criticism that staff weren’t properly trained for the job.
Manitoba’s Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a scathing review of the STARS program last month, criticizing the Selinger government for signing onto the service without a public tender and for rushing its implementation in the months leading up to the 2011 election.
STARS resumed partial service March 7 but has been banned from transporting patients between hospitals until a new clinical oversight panel gives it the green light to return to full service. In the meantime, STARS has only been used four times for scene calls.
At a fixed cost of $10 million a year, taxpayers are paying $192,308 per week for the 24/7 service whether it’s used or not. That means Manitobans have shelled out $288,461 per flight over the past six weeks. For the calendar year, taxpayers have paid $721,154 per flight.
The province had projected STARS would fly 600 to 800 missions per year.