Lifeflight doctors back aboard planes for July

Doctors working in the Lifeflight program are back on the planes — at least temporarily.

After refusing to board the new planes when the province terminated the use of the old Cessna Citation jets in mid-June, the doctors are testing the waters, with a schedule set for the month of July.

Dr. Renate Singh, medical director for the Lifeflight program, said Monday was the first time the planes have been fully staffed since mid-June.

In the interim, the planes had been staffed with other providers — including nurses and advanced care paramedics — to transport patients.

“We’ve spent the last couple of weeks dealing with the safety concerns that needed to be addressed prior to resuming normal operations — our new operation,” Dr. Singh said.

“The safety concerns have been addressed, so the physicians have agreed to try out this new system.”

But she said the news doctors are back on the planes isn’t a guarantee their presence will continue after the trial period.

“This is in no way the same program that we were participating in before,” Dr. Singh continued.

“The change in platform has resulted in an abrupt change in how it is that we are required to practice medicine in air transport.”

The group of doctors working on the Lifeflight planes had been raising concerns about patient and physician safety since the idea of privatizing the service was raised in the fall.

Dr. Singh said now that some of the items have been addressed, the trial period will allow doctors to decide for themselves whether they’re willing to work in the new environment.

“The fact that we have participation through the month of July reflects their willingness to continue engaging in patient care for patients in rural and remote locations.”

“It’s a step of good faith — it’s a big step of good faith actually.”

But Dr. Singh said there’s more work needed to improve the program’s operations, calling the existing situation with the new planes “considerably sub-optimal” compared to what was in place before.

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