The request includes plans for multi-year medical aviation services delivered via both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, with the government stating that ‘proposals can be submitted for either or both of these services’.
The government stated that all applications for the new contract should be submitted by 9 September 2022, and should meet the following criteria:
- All aircraft must be able to provide for the needs of patients requiring critical and specialty care, including being fitted with neonatal incubators and bariatric stretcher platforms
- The provider should be able to provide 24/7, year-round primary aircraft availability, supported by additional backup aircraft
- There should be options included for the expansion of capacity over the term of the contract, based on demand for air ambulance care
- Providers should be able to meet high-performance standards, such as more expedient deployment times and the use of a safety management program.
The government also stated that more points will be awarded to providers who can offer newer, dedicated aircraft and higher levels of service reliability.
Concerns remain about the safety of private air ambulance provision in the state
As part of the request’s announcement, Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon said: “This request for proposals will ensure standardized and universal care among air ambulances, and help to build a more modern critical care service that supports the evolving needs of all Manitobans.”
However, the announcement has received some criticism from members of the opposition, with Manitoba’s New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Wab Kinew argued that questions about patient safety need to be answered before tendering goes ahead.
“The Progressive Conservative government announcement to continue privatizing medical aviation services is deeply concerning,” Kinew said. “There are serious unanswered questions about whether the government is ensuring patient safety and medical standards are being met. The pandemic showed the importance of putting patient safety and standards first when medical transportation is at issue. We should be investing in public medical aviation services that put patient safety first.”
The Winnipeg Free Press newspaper noted that the announcement comes just under one year after the death of a 31-year-old mother following a failed airlift attempt by a privately contracted aircraft service in the city of Brandon on 25 May 2021.