After over a year without air ambulance services, Grand Manan will have an aircraft stationed on the island beginning in the fall, according to a Department of Health news release Thursday.
It will be the first permanent aircraft to be stationed on the island since medevac services were lost in 2022 after changes to Transport Canada regulations led to the loss of a contract with Ambulance New Brunswick.
Municipality mayor Bonnie Morse welcomes the development.
“This has been something that we have been in discussions with the Department of Health and Ambulance New Brunswick … for well over a year now. So it’s something we’ve been advocating for a long time,” Morse said.
According to the release, Ambulance New Brunswick signed a contract with Voyageur Aviation to bring the aircraft to the island.
Ambulance N.B. currently operates a primary aircraft and a mechanical backup, both of which are King Air 200 models. The new Grand Manan aircraft will also be a King Air 200.
Until the new aircraft is stationed on Grand Manan, Ambulance N.B. “will continue to collaborate with Voyageur Aviation to maximize usage of the backup aircraft to support services on Grand Manan. This temporary measure is expected to be partially operational starting in March,” said the release.
Morse said the absence of a permanent air ambulance caused anxiety in the community, particularly during bad weather events such as persistent foggy periods.
“In general, people were anxious about what if something happened, would they be able to access the same health care that the rest of New Brunswick does,” Morse said.
Following medevac services being grounded in 2022, patients have on multiple occasions had to be transported by military search and rescue helicopters to access mainland hospitals better equipped for their needs.
Last year, Grand Manan resident Emma Boynton gave birth in an ambulance on the side of a road on the island, with her newborn having to be resuscitated by paramedics.
She and her partner were told that there was no air ambulance to take her to the Saint John Regional Hospital.
Boynton said she thinks having a permanent air ambulance is “a great idea considering how much has happened since [medevac] has been gone.”
She said a permanently-stationed aircraft could be a “lifesaver” for emergencies that can’t be managed on the island and that having been able to get to the mainland regional hospital probably would have changed her situation as well.
“I probably wouldn’t have needed a blood transfusion and I feel like this would have went a lot more smoothly than what it did,” Boynton said.
Thursday’s news release said that air ambulance services will eventually transition to 24/7 advance life support services on the island.
“We’re glad to see a light at the end of the tunnel and that we will have service restored here to the island,” said Morse.