FILE — Ninety per cent of rural Alberta municipalities help fund STARS air ambulance. (File)

Critical Condition

Helicopter non-profit looks to fill rural B.C. service gaps

TEAAM is a group of paramedics and doctors providing advanced care in difficult to access locations.

This story comes as a follow up to our Critical Condition series that investigated gaps in pre-hospital care in rural B.C. We will have more stories on the future of care as reaction and policy discussions emerge.

A new not-for-profit society is hoping to fill some service gaps in the emergency medical services field in British Columbia.

According to the organization’s website, Technical Evacuation Advanced Aero Medical (TEAAM) is a group of paramedics and physicians dedicated to providing advanced life support (ALS) medical care in remote, difficult to access locations.

Using hoist and long line (HETS) equipped helicopters, TEAAM can access patients in remote industrial sites, forestry operations, First Nations communities, and marine environments. Once on scene, TEAAM will provide cutting-edge, advanced medical care to allow for quick and safe extrication and transport of patients.

TEAAM president Miles Randell has 21 years experience as an ambulance paramedic and 27 years experience with search and rescue organizations. The organization will operate in collaboration with Blackcomb Helicopters out of Squamish.

“Over the years, I have noticed there is a gap in pre-hospital care coverage in British Columbia,” explained Randell. “It is handled very well in other places such as Switzerland and New Zealand.”

“If you were to suffer a workplace injury or an injury in a remote place in Australia, you would dial the local service and you would get a dedicated helicopter with doctors and paramedics that are trained in accessing patients in rugged or technical terrain through a hoist-capable helicopter.”

“We realized the gap was there and that the current services that exist were not able to combine that kind of [accessing patient] capability with the medical capability. So we decided to start the organization.”

About two weeks after they decided to form the organization, the founders came across BC Forest Safety Ombudsman Roger Harris’s report criticizing serious gaps in access to helicopter emergency transport for rural B.C. and calling on the government and British Columbia Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) to make changes.

“It basically laid out exactly what we were building,” said Randell.

TEAAM hopes to operate on a public-private partnership or P3 model.

“We have had donations from industry, we have had donations from charities and we are working with government to try to secure some funding,” added Randell.

“Currently we are not exactly rolling in money — we are going to launch on a bit of a wing and a prayer.”

TEAAM will have its first base in Squamish but hopes to eventually expand to five bases.

“Based out of Squamish we can reach the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Tofino area as well as Kamloops, Sun Peaks and up to the Cariboo Chilcotin.”

When looking for future base locations the organization will consider geographical suitability, call volume and industry base to allow for donations to support operations for that area.

“The amount of support from industry has been huge,” said Randell. “Everyone agrees the concept is absolutely needed — but we haven’t had a ton of people lining up to donate in the industry yet. Our hope is once we get rolling, people will quickly see the need.”

Randell said their service will also provide financial benefits to corporations, WorkSafe and the health-care system.

“There are a number of studies out there that show the financial benefits of being able to provide advanced life support medical care rapidly on scene. Providing those rapid interventions and minimizing injury and illness and being able to transport to the appropriate hospital … the local hospital is not always the most appropriate.”

“We are not intending to take over search and rescue work or ambulance work, our intention is to fill a gap where paramedical retrieval care doesn’t exist.”

TEAAM doesn’t intend to “reinvent the wheel” but is being modelled after other successful programs.

“We have travelled to Switzerland and looked at forest services over there,” explained Randell. “We have had two Australians come over and teach us how they do it — the model in Australia is very impressive.

“We are definitely leaning on those that are well established and that are experts in the field. If we are going to do this we want to do it right for sure.”

While the TEAAM funding model is similar to Alberta’s emergency helicopter organization STARS, the operational model is different.

“STARS is doing helicopter EMS work, what we are doing is retrieval medicine,” explained Randell.

“For example, if we pulled up to a remote logging site where an air ambulance couldn’t land, and we found a patient was pinned in a logging truck — we can hoist down right onto the logging truck, we have extrication capabilities so we could take the patient out of that entrapment and provide medical care and then hoist them up into the aircraft.”

Because the organization does not have a full budget yet, they will operate on an on-call basis at first but will be able to fly within 15 minutes of a call. TEAAM missions will be staffed with advanced life support providers — Advanced Care Paramedics, physicians or a combination of the two. Current staff includes intensive care physicians, emergency room physicians, anesthesiologists, and pediatric anesthesiologists.

All of the stories in the Critical Condition series can be found at castlegarnews.com/tag/critical-condition-investigation

Critical Condition Investigation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Troll Ski Resort is preparing for a ski season in the middle of a pandemic. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer File Photo)
Quesnel-area ski resort preparing for throwback season

Troll owner Hildur Fossberg Sinclair said they will operate like it was 30-40 years ago

Fifty spectators will be allowed in the West Fraser Centre, alongside 50 people on the ice. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
After tumultuous week of changes, Quesnel’s West Fraser Centre allowing spectators again

Capacity limits at the rink have changed four times in the past two weeks

The Quesnel SPCA is looking for foster homes for kittens, puppies and other small animals. (BC SPCA Photo)
“Genuine lifesavers”: BCSPCA puts out call for foster volunteers

The COVID-19 pandemic means more foster volunteers are needed to handle reduced capacity

Quesnel residents still needed to cross Fraser River footbridge, despite the winter weather. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel discovers October winter wonderland

Cariboo residents awoke to snow on their cars, and plows on the road to deal with the white stuff

Grizzly bear sightings are up in the Likely area this year. (Ivan Hardwick photo)
COS says grizzly bear sightings up in the Likely area

Two grizzly bear siblings were moved a short distance away from Likely

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP stock photo (Black Press)
Charges laid against Prince George man, 39, in drug trafficking probe

Tyler Aaron Gelowitz is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 18

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Most Read