Grand Manan faces potential loss of air ambulance service

Grand Manan could lose its air ambulance service on Dec. 12 due to new regulations being introduced by Transport Canada, according to Mayor Bonnie Morse.

Atlantic Charters, which provides the medevac service on the island, have been impacted by these regulations, Morse said at a council meeting this week. She said due to this, there have been negotiations with the province and Ambulance New Brunswick, but there have been no answers yet.

"Those negotiations have basically stalled, as my understanding, if not broken off," she said.

In an interview, Morse said the potential loss of the air ambulance service on the island concerns her as the plane caters to emergencies like strokes and serious vehicle collision where injuries cannot be treated on the island.

While there are alternative air ambulance services in other communities that could serve Grand Manan, Morse said having an air ambulance stationed on the island itself is critical because sometimes the island's fog and weather conditions makes it a challenge for planes to land. In fact, she said a woman on the island lost her life about 10 years ago when Atlantic Charters was awaiting a contract renewal and a mainland air ambulance could not land on the island due to fog.

The island's ferry makes its last trip at 7:15 p.m., she added, and if someone has to be taken to Saint John hospital at 10 p.m., it is "not always practical" for the person to wait till next morning, given their condition.

The Telegraph-Journal requested comment Tuesday from Melanie Sonnenberg, owner of Atlantic Charters. She declined comment.

Morse said there have been informal conversations with local MLA Andrea Anderson-Mason, Atlantic Charters and Ambulance NB. Requests have been made for a meeting with Health Minister Bruce Fitch or Premier Blaine Higgs, she added, but there has not been anything scheduled yet.

"We are really worried that we are going to have reduced service and reduced standards for people here on the island compared to the residents of New Brunswick," she said.

In an email, Jean-Pierre Savoie, vice-president of Ambulance New Brunswick, said there has been discussions going on with Atlantic Charters, and due to these ongoing conversations, it will not be able to provide any specifics. Savoie added that Ambulance New Brunswick's air ambulance program, which serves every community in the province including Grand Manan, would remain available.

"Ambulance New Brunswick is and always has been committed to the health and safety of all New Brunswickers, and we are committed to continuing with these important discussions regarding services for Grand Manan."

The Telegraph-Journal reached out to Transport Canada for comment, but did not hear back as of press time.

Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal