QUEENS PARK – During question period Thursday, Gilles Bisson, NDP MPP for Timmins-James Bay demanded that the Wynne government protect northern patients by stopping an extended summer shut down of the air ambulance base in Moosonee.
“We’re not doing that anywhere else in the province, where we shut down bases when we do the maintenance on helicopters,” Bisson said. “Why is the Liberal government allowing the shut down of Moosonee?”
Heavy maintenance of Ornge’s C-GYNZ aircraft based in Moosonee was planned from June 1 to July 31, when the helicopters will be shipped to Orgne’s London hangar. However that maintenance is now expected to last straight through to September.
While transportation alternatives are in place for patients, none can respond as quickly as the Moosonee Air Ambulance Helicopter.
“Why are we allowing Ornge to shut down the Moosonee rotary wing base in order to maintain helicopters, when we don’t do that anywhere else in the province? Can you please look at it and turn this around?” Bisson said.
The nearest rotar-wing aircraft that will be able to respond to the coastal communities during this shut down is in Sudbury.
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Mr. Gilles Bisson: My question is to the Minister of Health. Minister, I was very surprised, on Friday, when I was up on the James Bay, to find out that we’re going to be shutting down the Ornge air ambulance helicopter base in Moosonee this summer. As you know, there’s new equipment that has been put in that base, as has been across this province. But for some reason, for the base in Moosonee, the only one that they’re doing this way, they’re going to be shutting down the base for two months this summer to take the helicopter away for maintenance. We’re not doing that anywhere else in the province, where we shut down bases when we do the maintenance on helicopters.
Why are we shutting down Moosonee, and will you help us turn that around?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: I greatly appreciate the member opposite raising this issue with me. I believe we had a similar situation a year ago, where there was the potential for a pause in the operations of an aspect of Ornge’s work in Moosonee, but we were able—quite frankly, with co-operation and collaboration with the member opposite—to come up with a solution that resulted in seamless and continuous Ornge operation and another model to address that.
So I’m not familiar with all of the details of what’s being proposed for this summer. I appreciate the fact that the member has raised it with us here in the Legislature. I will pursue more information and see if there is an opportunity to look at the required maintenance in a different way.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Gilles Bisson: Supplementary to the minister: Last year, Minister, the issue was that it was new equipment and we had to train the pilots. Obviously, you’ve got to train them before they can fly them, so we made accommodations in order to allow that to happen. Fair enough.
In this case, we’re maintaining the helicopter. Every so many hours, we have to do routine maintenance to make sure that those machines are safe to fly, for both the pilots and the crew, along with patients. My point is, if we’re not shutting down bases across Ontario—I’m not advocating that we should—why, then, are we allowing Ornge to shut down the Moosonee rotary wing base in order to maintain helicopters when we don’t do that anywhere else in the province? Can you please look at it and turn this around?
Hon. Eric Hoskins: Again, I appreciate the question. I know it is a different situation than it was last year—one was training; this is maintenance—but I referenced last year because I think that we were heading in a similar direction in terms of the potential or perceived disruption that would occur during that training period. I referenced it because I think that perhaps there might be an opportunity here.
I know that hospital officials have been consulted. I know that local officials have been consulted by Ornge with regard to this. I think we all agree that maintenance is certainly required. But I will look into this in more detail, speak to the member opposite and seek to provide the best possible solution that we can.