Correction of design flaw in Ornge air ambulances cost $419K
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013 6:16PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 23, 2013 8:58PM EST
A design flaw that restricted when CPR could be performed inside Ontario’s air ambulances has been temporarily fixed at a cost of $419,000, but a permanent solution could cost taxpayers more money, CTV Toronto has learned.
The interiors of the Ornge air ambulances have now been remedied so that paramedics can perform CPR to patients at any time.
The cramped interiors of the helicopters previously made the practice difficult.
“If there was the need to do CPR, we could very easily,” Ornge operations manager Anthony Sharp said, showcasing the fix at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport on Wednesday. “There’s lots of clearance.”
The flaw was first reported by CTV Toronto in September 2011, and, at the time, Ornge managers defended the $144-million purchase.
“We stand by our design and it’s a very good design and we’re very proud of it,” former Ornge CEO Tom Lepine said when initially questioned about the issue.
The old design was so flawed that Transport Canada wouldn’t allow paramedics to stand up and perform CPR in the helicopter during takeoff and landing.
Ornge was given until February of this year to find a solution.
Now, thanks to the more spacious interiors, CPR can be administered at any time during an air ambulance flight. As well, the new configuration will allow patients to be moved in and out of the helicopters without snagging medical tubes or the IV line – concerns that dogged the older arrangement.
But the repairs are only a temporary solution. Ornge will still be required to find a permanent solution and that could cost upwards of a $1 million.
Scandal surrounding out-of-control spending has plagued the province’s air ambulance service.
Currently two of Ornge’s AW139 helicopters are sitting idle in a Philadelphia hangar. The two helicopters, which were bought by the province in 2009, are for sale with an asking price of $12.5 million each.
It costs the province $1,800 a month to park the helicopters.
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said the idle choppers were the decision of the old board of directors at Ornge, most of whom were fired.
She said the government will wait until it gets the best price for the two air ambulances before selling them.
With a report from CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss
Ornge operations manager Anthony Sharp sits in an Ornge air ambulance in Toronto, Jan. 23, 2013. (CTV Toronto / Danny Pinto)