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A new Emergency Health Services LifeFlight airplane will be in The Third’s air space beginning this week to transport noncritical care patients from Sydney to Halifax for tests and treatment that cannot be completed at the regional hospital – or anywhere on the island.

The province says the new service, also available in Yarmouth, will free up ambulances and paramedics for local emergency calls, reduce wait times, and save patients hours of travel by road. According to the Department of Health and Wellness, the new service will result in up to 12 ambulances a day remaining in their communities. “The demand on emergency health services is growing and the best place for ambulances and paramedics to be is in their communities, helping people when an emergency strikes,” said Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness.

“This new plane will also drastically reduce the time it takes for patients to access the healthcare they need and return home sooner.” Travelling by the new LifeFlight plane from the Third to Halifax will take about an hour, compared with the five hours it typically takes by ambulance. It will also be more comfortable for patients.

The plane, a specially outfitted PAL Beech 1900 turboprop, will carry two to four patients per trip and will make three round trips daily, including those from Yarmouth. The Executive Director of LIfeFlight Operations for Emergency Health Services, Paula Martell, says that the program is an “important milestone in the evolution of the system to provide Nova Scotians with the right resource for the right patient at the right time for the right reasons. EHS[’s] transfer of patients between facilities is an integral part of the provincial healthcare system.”

Currently, about 55,000 transfers are made province-wide annually, most of those are considered long-haul trips that take about 10 hours and result in ambulances and paramedics not being available in their home communities for long periods of time. As for the company supplying the plane, PAL Group of Companies, its CEO says the company is “thrilled to expand [its] long-standing partnership with Emergency Health Services and the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness with the delivery of this new non-critical care air ambulance service,” says Jake Trainor. “The new aircraft with its longer range, increased cabin capacity, and seamless interoperability with the province’s existing road and air ambulance fleet is a significant step forward in providing timely access to treatment and enhanced patient care.”

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