Together with patients, crew, community supporters and government officials, Canadian emergency medical transportation provider STARS has welcomed its newest Airbus H145 helicopter to Melfort in Saskatchewan. The aircraft, which entered service weeks ago from STARS' Regina base, is the fifth of 10 helicopters needed to replace the air ambulance service's fleet across western Canada.
“Today is about bringing us another step closer to making our fleet renewal programme a reality,” says STARS president and CEO Andrea Robertson. “It is also about paying tribute to the man who brought STARS to Saskatchewan and has since helped it flourish.”
The helicopter's official registration marks are C-GFRG, and the last three letters stand for ‘Founder Rod Gantefoer’ in honour of the community leader, provincial politician, and member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit. Gantefoer was instrumental in establishing STARS' operations in the province a decade ago and led the STARS Foundation in Saskatchewan for a number of years. Most recently he volunteered to lead fundraising efforts to build the new heliport at the Melfort Hospital, where today's event was held.
“Rod has done so much for the thousands of patients we've helped across Saskatchewan since 2012,” continues Robertson. “We're thrilled that the new aircraft named after him will help us fight for the lives of thousands more patients for decades to come.”
One such local patient was at the event, thanking Gantefoer for making STARS possible. Pleasantdale-area native Jessi Fredin was cared for and flown by STARS after being critically injured in a motor vehicle crash in 2016. Fredin has since become a paramedic herself and strongly encourages others to give to the non-profit. “You could be saving your own life one day by supporting STARS,” she says.
Also welcoming the new aircraft and recognising Gantefoer was Premier Scott Moe, whose government announced in December 2018 its commitment to fund the first of STARS' new fleet in Saskatchewan.
“It's been nearly a decade since Rod Gantefoer helped bring this life-saving service to our province, and this recognition is very fitting,” Premier Moe states. “Thanks to investments from individual and corporate donors along with our government, STARS will continue to fly safely in Saskatchewan with this addition to its renewed fleet for years to come.”
In 2018, STARS unveiled its multi-year Keep the Fight in Flight capital campaign to renew its fleet of BK117 and AW139 aircraft with new, medically-equipped Airbus H145 helicopters, at a cost of CAD $13 million each. Thanks to government, community and corporate support, the not-for-profit charity began taking delivery of the state-of-the-art H145 helicopters in 2019 and has already flown hundreds of missions in Saskatchewan with the new aircraft. Although it has millions of dollars left to raise, STARS hopes to wrap up its ambitious fundraising campaign by the end of the year and see the remainder of the new fleet arrive and enter service across western Canada through 2022.
“We're so grateful to our donors for helping us make a generational investment in a new fleet,” concludes Robertson. “We've got more work ahead of us, but we're hopeful the community will continue to support the campaign so we can reach our fundraising goal by the end of this year.”