Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut July 22, 2016 - 2:30 pm

Nunavut government issues RFP for Kitikmeot air ambulance service

GN, Adlair still in court over 2012 lawsuit

An Aqsaniq Airways, Air Tindi-operated King Air air ambulance takes off from Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AQSANIQ AIRWAYS)
An Aqsaniq Airways, Air Tindi-operated King Air air ambulance takes off from Cambridge Bay. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AQSANIQ AIRWAYS)

The Government of Nunavut has issued a Request For Proposals for a new air ambulance service contract in western Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region.

The RFP, tendered June 14, remains open until Aug. 3.

Since December 2011, the region has been serviced by Air Tindi, a Yellowknife-based air service, which operates the contract as a minority partner of Nunavut-based Aqsaniq Airways.

A new contract could change that, with the GN looking to award a new five-year, or potentially a seven-year, agreement worth more than $30 million over five years.

The RFP is looking for an air carrier that can have, at all times, two multi-engine turboprop or turbojet-powered aircraft plus crew and medical staff on standby at all times.

The service provider must designate and maintain an operations base within or in close proximity to the Kitikmeot region.

“Time is of the essence of this agreement,” the RFP says, noting the contractor must be able to depart their base within one hour of a call for a medevac.

The air ambulance service serves as a link between the five communities of the Kitikmeot — Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, Kugaaruk, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven — and hospitals located in Yellowknife and Edmonton.

Occasionally, medevacs are also requested to pick up patients in more remote locations in the region, such as Bay Chimo and Bathurst Inlet.

GN statistics show that between 2012 and 2016, 93 per cent of all medevacs out of the Kitikmeot region were sent to the Stanton General Hospital in Yellowknife, with the remaining seven per cent of patients sent to Edmonton.

Between 30 and 35 per cent of all medevaced patients in the region were of pediatric age in that time period, while 12 per cent of medevacs involved psychiatric care.

Proposals will be evaluated based on a bidders’ flight plans, basing strategy and response plan, past experience and Inuit content.

While the agreement is set to be finalized in October, the GN hasn’t indicated the new contract’s start date.

Air ambulance services for both the Kivalliq and Qikiqtani regions are both currently operated by Keewatin Air.

But the Kitikmeot contract is controversial for a few reasons.

When Air Tindi won the contract in 2011, it took over from Cambridge Bay-based Adlair Aviation Ltd. which had held the same contract for more than decade, and operated an air ambulance in western Nunavut since the 1970s.

When the contract switched over in 2011, Air Tindi promised to locate a Learjet air ambulance in Cambridge Bay, although the air carrier never delivered on that promise.

Adlair launched a $31.5 million lawsuit against the GN in 2012, alleging that Aqsaqniq had won the contract unfairly, and a year after the contract was awarded, had yet to install the base, facilities, staff, aircraft and equipment in that were required to meet the terms of the original RFP.

Adlair also alleged that Aqsaqniq was responsible for critical delays in their air ambulance service leading to delays in medical treatment and the death of patients, including that of Betty Atighioyak.

Atighioyak was just 32 in December 2011, when she had a stroke at home in Cambridge Bay. It took the the Air Tindi crew more than seven hours from the time it was dispatched to transport Atighioyak by King Air to an Edmonton hospital, where she died five days later.

The lawsuit remains before the court, and none of the allegations have yet been proven in court.

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