Air ambulance ready to allow parents aboard with children by July: Quebec govt
But Nunavimmiut still dismayed by minister’s comments
Quebec’s Ministry of Health said the government’s revised policy that allows parents to accompany their children on its air ambulance should be implemented by July.
Earlier this year, Montreal doctors raised concerns that sick or injured children were being flown in the province’s Challenger jet air ambulance, which serves Quebec’s northern and remote regions, while their parents had to take commercial flights to join them in southern hospitals.
Following a public outcry, the government announced this past February that it would change that policy to allow parents to travel with their children.
But little has changed since then.
Of the 75 children picked up by the air ambulance since March 2018, 74 of them were transported to hospital without their parents, said Évacuations aéromédicales du Québec (ÉVAQ), the organization that oversees the service.
“We’re happy that problem is going to be solved,” said Dr. Nathalie Boulanger, the director of Professional Services at the Tulattavik health centre in Kuujjuaq.
“But we haven’t been consulted on any changes to the policies.”
Boulanger said she’s even pushed to get parents onto the air ambulance in recent months, but they were denied.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services said it’s working on a reconfiguration of the Challenger aircraft to make room for more passengers, in addition to training its air ambulance staff.
The departments of Health and Transport are finalizing this work.
“The policy will be implemented as soon as possible; we aim for the end of the month,” a ministry spokesperson told Nunatsiaq News by email.
The issue came to a head again last week after Quebec’s Health Minister Gaétan Barrette was recorded commenting on the new policy at an event in his riding earlier this month.
When asked about the new policy, Barrette said he expected there would be issues with intoxicated parents being barred from the air ambulance flights.
“I can guarantee you that there will be one incident in the next six months where somebody will not be allowed on the plane,” Barrette said in an audio clip obtained by CBC News.
“Why? Because no one agitated, drunk, under whatever influence, would get on the plane … at any cost. That will not happen.”
Inuit leaders have now called for the minister’s resignation. Barrette apologized but denied that his comments were directed at Inuit parents.
“It’s hard to think otherwise,” said Boulanger, who read the full transcript of Barrette’s remarks.
“First of all, there hasn’t been a parent who’s accompanied their child on the Challenger, so they wouldn’t know how parents behave.”
Boulanger, who coordinates medevacs from Tulattavik hospital, including medical flights with children and their parents, said she hasn’t encountered the issues Barrette described.
“Unfortunately, this puts to light that no matter how culturally sensitive we are, maybe we’re not as much as we should be,” she said.
“And we should get regular feedback on that, to make sure that we avoid these ill-fated comments.”