Oilsands companies and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo have reached an agreement to fund the local helicopter emergency response organization (HERO) foundation until March 2019.
The HERO Foundation, operated by Fort McMurray-based Phoenix Heli-Flight, was established in 2013 to extend regional helicopter medevac services beyond daylight hours. It has been supported by major sponsors including Suncor Energy, Cenovus Energy, Husky Energy, Williams Energy, in addition to personal donations from Wood Buffalo citizens and fee-for-service funding from the provincial government, according to its website.
At the time, “With the soaring population and level of activity in the region it became clear that a higher level of service needed to be reached…Night Vision Goggle operations were approved in December 2013 and in July 2014 the Foundation took delivery of a new EC135 T2+ helicopter. Since the dedicated program’s inception over 250 medevac missions have been flown,” the HERO Foundation says.
According to the industry-funded Oil Sands Community Alliance (OSCA), the economics of the program have not been easy, but a solution has been secured.
“While the benefits of enhanced medevac service delivery are clear, the significant costs associated with 24/7 dedicated emergency helicopter coverage have proved challenging,” OSCA said in its latest community e-newsletter.
“In 2015, OSCA and other local partners began investigating a more sustainable funding model that would ensure service continuity. These discussions have secured commitment from each signatory to support the service until March 2019.
“The collaborative funding agreement makes up two thirds of HERO’s $3-million fixed costs. The remaining funds will be contributed by Alberta Health Services. Additional operational costs will be covered by the foundation’s fundraising efforts.”