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Ste Anne CAO to assist STARS in island mission

By: Dave Baxter

Posted: 08/6/2017 6:15 AM

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As the amount of STARS Air Ambulance calls rises in Manitoba this summer, the CAO of Ste Anne is getting ready to spend a day on a deserted island to raise money for and awareness about the air ambulance service.

"When you think of STARS you think of an air ambulance, but you often don’t think of all the important and possibly life-saving services they can provide on scene," RM of Ste Anne CAO Jennifer Blatz said.

"The more I learn about STARS the more I am just blown away by the services they are able to provide."

Blatz will take part in the STARS Rescue on the Island fundraising event on Sept. 14, and she’s already hard at work trying to raise $50,000 for Manitoba’s STARS Air Ambulance service.

STARS Rescue on the Island will see Blatz and seven others board a helicopter which will take them to an island somewhere in Manitoba, but they won’t know where they are headed until they get there.

As part of the fundraising event, Blatz has been working to raise money for STARS, and has currently raised more than $16,000.

She said the model in which STARS runs in Manitoba means fundraising is a vital part of their operation.

"With the model for STARS in Manitoba they are not-for-profit and self-funded," Blatz said. "They rely mostly on donations from private and public entities.

"So the Rescue on the Island event was started a few years ago in Manitoba, and they recruit local CAO’s and managers and others in those types of positions from all over Manitoba."

Although raising money has been part of what Blatz has been doing since finding out she was headed out to an island, she said she is also putting her administrative experience to use to try and get other local RM’s aware of what STARS does, and how they need municipal support.

"I took it upon myself to reach out and work to get municipalities to contribute," Blatz said. "I thought that was an asset I could provide with my background, so I have been advocating for STARS since September."

According to Blatz municipalities in Manitoba fund less than 10 percent of STARS budget, while by comparison municipalities in Alberta currently fund approximately 90 percent of the STARS budget in that province.

"I found that number troubling, and I believe municipal support should go hand-in-hand with STARS, and we should be very careful as municipalities to make sure that STARS stays here."

Blatz said she has learned the average STARS call costs approximately $5,500 in Manitoba, and last year STARS made 11 calls just in the RM of Ste Anne, meaning calls in Ste Anne alone cost more than $60,000.

She added that this year Ste Anne donated $1 per capita to STARS, but said even that amount of funding only funded one of the 11 calls in Ste Anne last year.

On Tuesday STARS Air Ambulance held a press event in Winnipeg to let the public know the number of calls they went out last month was unusually high.

Manitoba’s STARS Air Ambulance responded to a total of 95 calls in July of this year, topping their previously highest month which saw them respond to 71 calls in July of 2015.

"It’s been an unusual summer and we’ve been busier than we’ve ever been, and we want the public to know we are out there working hard," STARS Air Ambulance base director and flight paramedic Grant Therrien said.

Therrien said summer is typically their busiest time of year with Manitobans spending more time out of highways, and on ATVs and boats in rural areas.

He added there is increased use of the service because of the helipad that has been set up at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

The total operating budget for Manitoba’s Stars Air Ambulance for 2017 has been set at $10 million.

The eight people headed for the island this Sept. won’t be left alone as a number of STARS personnel will spend the day on the island with them, doing different activities and challenges.

Any person, business or public entity that would like to donate to Blatz’ Stars on an Island campaign, or get more information on how to donate is asked to call her at 204-961-0522 or email cao@rmofstanne.com.

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