Cypress County is calling the recent report on emergency helicopter rescue in the province appalling and says it reflects a lack of respect for citizens in rural areas of Alberta.
The Helicopter Emergency Management Services report released late last month recommended STARS be the sole provider of services in the province – a recommendation which would leave the future Medicine Hat-based HALO and Ft. McMurray-based HERO up in the air.
“The Alberta government has to be in contact with HALO and HERO and work this out,” said Cypress County Reeve Dan Hamilton on Thursday. “The (HEMS) review wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.”
The county released a statement on Thursday calling on the provincial government to provide equal treatment to all Albertans when it comes to provincially funded and regulated emergency services.
“This has been going on for 18 months,” said Hamilton of the review. “The Alberta government has to recognize the rural areas aren’t second-class citizens. We should be treated equal.”
The comments and release come as Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen and Economic Development Minister Travis Toews visited the county.
Hamilton says the province should provide stable funding to HALO to allow it to continue to serve southeastern Alberta as it has for years.
HALO was launched in 2007 as a one-year pilot project. Despite a number of times being threatened with dissolution due to lack of government funding, the helicopter emergency rescue service continued to fly after timely donations.
The service is currently funded by the government on a fee-for-service basis.
ALEX MCCUAIG, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News