Fort McMurray-based emergency helicopter rescue operation receives $2M boost

The provincial government is providing nearly $2 million in support to Fort McMurray’s Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operation (HERO) service.

According to the province, the funding boost provided under a new five-year contract represents double the amount of the current annual support it receives from Alberta Health Services (AHS).

Jason Copping, health minister, said in a statement that HERO provides a lifeline for rural northeastern Alberta communities, and the funding will ensure better integration within the overall air ambulance service.

“Predictable funding, direct contracts with AHS and better integration means sustainable air ambulance services to help Albertans in their moments of need,” Copping added.

For Sandy Bowman, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the provincial funding is a positive step to help the essential service. Bowman said the municipality has long supported HERO and has pushed the province to further support the air ambulance’s operations.

In 2019-20, HERO flew 62 missions, including search and rescue.

“The Local HERO service is an essential transportation lifeline for the hunters, fishers, trappers and residents of the remote First Nations communities located throughout northeast Alberta,” said Paul Spring, the local HERO Foundation president, in a statement.

“The foundation looks forward to working with Alberta Health to ensure Albertans continue to have timely access to emergency medical care.”

Funding for HERO was announced in Budget 2022, which included additional support to STARS and Medicine Hat-based Helicopter Air Lift Operation (HALO).

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