Ornge air ambulance pilot shortage resolved, province says
Sandie Benitah, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, November 9, 2017 8:09PM EST
Ten new pilots have been hired by Ornge air, resolving the issue of short staffing that plagued the service all summer, the province says.
Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s minister of health and long- term care, told reporters Thursday that he’s “confident” the issue has addressed.
“I’m confident any challenges being faced had no impact on patient care, but also have been resolved,” said Hoskins.
Earlier this week, CTV News Toronto reported staff shortages that led to the closure of 186 bases over the summer, between July 1 and Sept. 30.
According to this data, four of the 11 Ornge Air Ambulance bases were shut down on Thanksgiving weekend because pilots or paramedics called in sick.
Ornge requires a minimum staff of two pilots and two paramedics to have an operational base. If only one pilot is present, the helicopter is not flyable. A similar rule applies to paramedics; if the base only has one present, the base is deemed unqualified to respond to emergency calls. It’s then limited to the nature of call it can respond to.
Ornge CEO Dr. Andrew McCallum told CTV News Toronto that during the summer, McCallum said the need became so desperate because of short-term absences that pilots were taxied from London to Toronto or other parts of the GTA to man unstaffed bases.
Although, most of the absences were related to short-term illness, the company’s spokesperson suggested another reason for the industry’s pilot shortage.
Joshua McNamara told CTV News Toronto that pilots being poached by other airlines have poked holes in their staffing numbers.
“Like other fixed wing operators, Ornge is experiencing the impact of a worldwide demand for pilots. Large commercial operators have increased recruitment efforts and as a result, Ornge has seen a higher rate of turnover in recent months,” McNamara said.