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B.C. to replace fleet of air ambulances by next fall, Premier David Eby says

RICHMOND, B.C. — British Columbia will be replacing its fleet of air ambulance planes by the fall of next year, Premier David Eby said.
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B.C. Premier David Eby speaks at an announcement for a new hospital and cancer facility in Surrey B.C. on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. Eby says the province will be replacing its fleet of air ambulance planes by the fall of next year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

RICHMOND, B.C. — British Columbia will be replacing its fleet of air ambulance planes by the fall of next year, Premier David Eby said.

Eby said Friday that the 12 new Beechcraft King Air ambulances will be able to land on gravel runways and access more rural and remote communities.

The planes will have a uniform layout, making them easier for paramedics to use, and will offer expanded capabilities for specialized care, he said.

"Our province is facing massive growth. We have infrastructure that is aging, that was not replaced for a generation, and we can't rely on the infrastructure of our parents and grandparents anymore," Eby said.

The planes have the ability to carry advanced neonatal incubators and other life-support machines.

Leanne Heppell, the chief ambulance officer with B.C. Emergency Health Services, said the new fleet will make the province a world leader in air-ambulance care.

"These new aircraft are the closest equivalent to flying an intensive care unit," she said.

"They will enable our paramedics, including those who have our highest level of training, our critical care paramedics and our infant transport team, to provide excellent emergency medical care, improving health outcomes and saving lives."

Nine of the airplanes will be in regular operation, with three backups, and the province said the first went into service on May 1.

Three airplanes each will be stationed in Vancouver and Kelowna, two in Prince George and one in Fort St. John.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province will also be upgrading its helicopter air ambulances, and more details will be coming soon.

B.C.'s air ambulance program has a fleet of 15 aircraft in regular operation, including helicopters and airplanes.

The Health Ministry said there were 8,290 air-ambulance responses in 2023-24, a 19 per cent increase compared with 2017-18.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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