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Why is the government spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on contracts instead of recruiting, hiring and training pilots to deliver the service at higher quality and lower cost under the existing Lifeflight service

Monday December 3, I asked why the government is spending much more money in contracting our air ambulance flights when it could spend much less and get higher quality by recruiting and hiring pilots to do the flying in house.  My question and the government's response is on the video at this link here: https://youtu.be/kg1wM1U3jMQ

My questions and the government's responses are also available in print below:



Lifeflight Air Ambulance Privatization - Cost of New Service Contract


Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, to the Minister of Health: I understand that the government is spending large amounts of money to contract out air ambulance flights instead of having the flights done at lower cost by our in-house Lifeflight Air Ambulance service. Such contracts can now be for as many as 15 days a month.
      For a government which is obsessed with every dollar spent to make sure it's done in the most efficient and effective way, why is the government spending such large amounts of money for private contractors when the services could be performed better and at lower cost by Lifeflight?

Hon. Cameron Friesen (Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living): I actually take some encouragement from the member's question because he seems to be implying that he's willing to take a value-for-money approach in order to ensure a high level of service provision for Manitobans while keeping the service safe.
      If that is indeed what he's saying, I would say to him he seems to be on the right track, because this is exactly what the government is doing: looking at how to sustain this service, keep it strong and ask the questions that the former NDP government refused to ask, spending more by getting less service and less value for Manitobans.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, it is the problem of the government that it doesn't consider value for money. Indeed, the government is the cause of the problem, as it has been slow to authorize funds to recruit, hire and train pilots.
      I understand the cost of contracting out the services is adding up to about $360,000 a month, which is a large extra cost when the cost to train an additional pilot is only $26,000.
      Why is the government spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a month when it could be spending much less bringing new pilots on board and have a higher quality and lower–and more cost-effective service for the province of Manitoba?
Mr. Friesen: Madam Speaker, I want to be clear that, under the NDP, every year for the last five years of their time in office, they were procuring more and more of these flights from private carriers, more every year than the year previous. So we inherited the system that is very much, right now, a hybrid of direct carrier and procured carrier in order to get this service.
      Now, what is important is this: we take a value-for-money approach. We stand on the side of safety. For years, money was wasted. We will make sure that we are able to sustain the service and reinvest in it to keep it strong, because let's understand, this is about Manitobans who live in the North and live in remote locations, and we want to make sure this service is provided to them for years to come.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.

t

Death of Patient Using Air Ambulance Service - 

Request to Release Critical Incident Report
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, this NDP-PC hybrid is just not working. There is a quality issue as well as a cost issue. 

The in-house Lifeflight service uses jet airplanes, which are faster than the turboprop planes used by contracted air services. The use of the jet airplanes is really important for safety and for timeliness of flights into many communities as the turboprop planes may take up to two hours longer for the round trip to some northern communities, and in such instances, time is life.
      I understand there was a critical incident last year in which a person died when a flight wasn't quick enough.
      Will the government release today the full critical incident report? 

Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): I–not accepting any of the preamble of the member, I have to ask him, if he has such instant gratification answers, Madam Speaker, that would solve the problem so well, why doesn't he share them with the Liberal government in Nova Scotia, which uses totally private sector LifeFlight services, or the former premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, who moved totally, 100 per cent, to private services, or the former Liberal government in New Brunswick, which was 100 per cent private provision?
            Madam Speaker, for critical air ambulance, the BC government, the Yukon territory, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, all of them do the opposite of what the member's recommending. There must be a reason why.

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