When the dark red helicopters of STARS are flying, someone is generally having one of the worst days of their lives.
STARS stands for Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, a group that functions as an air ambulance service with physicians, nurses and paramedics able to provide rapid response to critical patients.
Since 2017 and flying from bases throughout western Canada, STARS has responded to the County of Stettler region 78 times. Over fifty of those times have been to the Stettler Hospital and Health Care Centre while the rest have been to scene calls throughout the county.
According to documents provided to County of Stettler council during their April 13 meeting by STARS representative Glenda Farden, the 15 missions per year average that the helicopter flies into the region represents over $100,000 in service to the town and county of Stettler and its ratepayers.
STARS has been operating in Alberta since 1985 and is funded through a blend of private and public funding.
While many industrial companies support the iconic air ambulance service, it is heavily funded by the government of Alberta and many municipalities as well; including Stettler County.
Stettler County has funded STARS since 1992 and over the last several years has had a standing line item in the annual budget which had the municipality pay $12,157.20 per year based on $2.20 per capita.
“You’re one of our leaders,” said Farden.
For 2022, Farden noted that STARS was asking for a fixed rate of $12,500 going forward instead of a per capita rate to make budget planning more predictable.
It was a request council seemed on board with.
“Rounded figures would be much simpler,” said Coun. Les Stulberg.
Coun. Ernie Gendre put forward the motion adjusting the STARS budget line item to the new amount going forward, which was carried.
As of the 2022 provincial budget, STARS is funded 20 per cent through the provincial government and 80 per cent through fundraising efforts such as the annual lottery and calendar programs as well as corporate and municipal sponsorship.
Unlike ground ambulance, Patients flown by STARS are never charged for the service.