There is nothing small about Ontario. At 1,076,395 km2 in size, it occupies nearly eleven per cent of Canada’s total land area. It is 90 per cent wilderness with nearly 1/6th of the province covered by fresh water. Larger than both Spain and France, it is little wonder that the province’s Ontario Air Ambulance is one of the largest and most intricate transport medicine organizations in the world.
Established in 1977, Ontario was the first Canadian province to provide a helicopter-based air ambulance system to transport critically ill patients from on site to hospital. That same year, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care developed and implemented a training system for flight paramedics who perform advanced life support and controlled medical acts during air transport. Ontario air ambulances are fundamentally, flying ICU’s.
Today, the organization is a stand alone which has become an integral component of the province’s emergency health system, operating from 26 bases across the province reaching into every community. It is responsible for all air ambulance operations including the contracting of flight service providers, medical oversight of all air paramedics, air dispatch and authorizing air and land ambulance transfers between hospitals.
Since its inception, it has coordinated more than 800,000 calls through its telecommunications system and completes more than 17,000 admissions per year. On-board medical care is possible because of a system that features round-the-clock teams of 244 flight paramedics with specialized training to care for patients in the aero medical environment. Through a satellite-based radio system, flight paramedics have ready access to physicians on the ground for consultation and to receive medical orders.
Ontario Air Ambulance is dedicated to the education of flight paramedics based on innovative and flexible models that integrate different types of learning into a single program. Students participate in classroom sessions, videoconferences, seminars, patient simulations (using a technology based mobile simulation unit that includes a Human Patient Simulator capable of dynamic cardiovascular, pulmonary and pharmacological responses), on-line learning and placements in hospitals and on air and land ambulances. Academic study is combined with clinical and preceptorship work at every stage to balance theory and practice.
In addition to transport medicine, Ontario Air Ambulance manages Ontario’s Emergency Medical Assistance Team (EMAT), a 56 bed mobile acute care unit that is ready for dispatch and on call 24/7. EMAT is the first and only resource of its kind in Canada which can respond to a health-care crisis anywhere it is ordered and has the ability to operate for 72 hours without external support.
Ontario Air Ambulance recently dedicated itself to the cause of injury prevention by partnering with SMARTRISK, a national organization that helps people of all ages recognize the risks in their everyday lives and shows them how to take those risks in the smartest way possible so that they can enjoy life to the fullest.
Just before the Ontario parliament recessed for the summer, an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act was given royal assent allowing the police to request a breathalyzer test from an operator of a motorized boat. If the allowable limit is exceeded, the operator faces suspension of their motor vehicle driver’s licence. Ontario Air Ambulance is proud to have assisted the effort of bringing this issue to the attention of the Ontario government and having the private member’s bill passed into law.
Passing this new law at the beginning of summer was both timely and important as it makes people think more carefully about taking the risk of drinking and boating this season.
“It’s my hope that the new law will reduce the number of water related injuries Ontario Air Ambulance will have to respond to. This in turn will take stress off of the entire health-care system. In addition and most importantly the new law contributes to saving lives,” said Dr. Chris Mazza, CEO of Ontario Air Ambulance.
Throughout the year, residents of Ontario can enjoy the peace of mind knowing that if the need arises, Ontario Air Ambulance is ready and able to help.
Ontario Air Ambulance is Canada’s leading innovator in the emerging field of transport medicine. As such, Ontario Air Ambulance operates one of North America’s largest air ambulance services with over 17,000 annual flights originating from 26 bases located throughout the province.