I am writing with regards to the column “Reprivatization of air ambulance program long overdue.”
It has been six years since I had the honour and privilege of joining Ornge as CEO. This was a time when Ontario’s air ambulance system was coming out of a period of turmoil. Our organization, as it was then, simply does not exist today. Much can happen, and has happened, in six years.
So it can be frustrating for the outstanding men and women who make up the Ornge team to read a column which seeks to turn back the clock and ignores the tremendous work that has taken place. The facts demonstrate that Ornge has evolved into a world-class air ambulance organization that is stronger, safer, more transparent, with measurable improvements in all aspects of our operation.
On the aviation side, we have a state-of-the-art aircraft helicopter and airplane fleet. Maintenance reliability is in the mid-90-per-cent range. We have made significant investments in safety, introducing technologies such as Night Vision Goggles in our helicopter fleet. We offer extensive pilot training at best in class facilities. Managers are highly experienced aviators.
I also want to point out that private commercial operators do, in fact, play an important role in the air ambulance program today. While our dedicated in-house helicopters and airplanes provide transport to Ontario’s sickest patients, we have several private carriers which operate under contract to Ornge. These carriers handle thousands of non-urgent transports, which help patients move to larger centres where they can receive the care they need.
Most importantly, the patient care delivered by our paramedics remains second to none, with overall patient satisfaction scores of more than 95 per cent, and hospital and paramedic service satisfaction scores in the 80s and 90s – a 20-per-cent improvement from 2012.
Our efforts were recognized late in 2018 when Ornge was accredited with exemplary standing by Accreditation Canada, the national organization which accredits hospitals, paramedic services and other healthcare organizations.
All of this at a time when the demand for air ambulance has never been stronger. Ornge was responsible for more than 20,000 patient-related transports last year, a 10-per-cent increase over a decade earlier.
The health-care system has undergone significant changes since the air ambulance program began more than 40 years ago, and our organization reflects that.
The job of providing medical care in the air is not without its challenges, and we will never stop looking for ways to make our operation better. But Ontarians can take comfort that the Ornge of today is a modern and professional organization providing exceptional value and care for the patients of this province.
Dr. Andrew McCallum
President and CEO of Ornge