Lifeflight air ambulance doctors urge province to ‘put on ice’ plans to privatize service

Sixteen air ambulance doctors with Lifeflight Manitoba say they aren’t eager to budge should the government privatize the province’s emergency air services.

Lifeflight provides quick inter-facility air ambulance transportation for seriously ill or injured Manitobans within 200 kilometres of Winnipeg.

In a letter obtained by Global News, the Lifeflight doctors explain to Health Minister Cameron Friesen their concerns over the proposed privatization.

The letter focuses on safety and transportation concerns.

In bold print the letter states, “We the medical staff of Lifeflight Manitoba Air Ambulance wish to make it clear that we are not prepared to work in an environment that provides substandard patient care and increases risk to patients and providers.”

For the 33 years the program has been running, the doctors wrote, there had been no safety incidents.

“When our service provider switches from a publicly owned entity to private industry, there will invariably be pressure on crews to take risks for the sake of maintaining profit margins,” the letter states.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) says the proposed change is risky.

“These doctors and their years of medical experience should be taken seriously, and the rush to privatize this vital public service should be put on ice.” MGEU spokesperson Jodee Mason said.

The MGEU said the government should instead put patients first, Mason added.

In July, the Manitoba government said it won’t proceed with the plans unless the same level of service and safety is provided, while also providing better value.

The letter ends by asking Friesen to recognize the right to equal access to health care across the province and to put patients first.

Global News reached out to the province on Nov. 4 for comment. They have not yet responded.

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