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Flying to a hospital near you! Athabasca Advocate Article

Angel Flight Alberta looks for new pilots in Northern Alberta

Joel Watson

T&C sTaff

Getting a ‘lift’ to the hospital takes on a whole new meaning thanks to Angel Flight Alberta’s transportation services.

The 10-year-old not-for-profit organization offers non-emergency medical service flights for those in rural communities who don’t have the means to reach a healthcare facility in a major city centre.

“The objective is to help non-ambulatory patients, whose financial situation makes it impossible for them to travel by conventional means,” said Coree-Ann McGonigle, a member of Angel Flights marketing team.

“So it can be any- body,” she added. “There could be a family (whose) child has to go see a primary physician (every six months), so we’re able to transport those patients as well.”

The program was founded and created by Kerry Pawluski, a family physician in northern Alberta, who learned through first- hand experience about the difficulty facing people in remote communities with travel.

He came across an article in 2001 about a similar program, which is now called Angel Flight B.C.

“I thought to myself Northern Alberta has the exact same issues, why wouldn’t we offer that same service here in Alberta?” he said. After getting ideas from the founding director of the BC program, Pawluski found- ed Angel Flight Alberta in 2006, where it has been running out of Edmonton for the past ten years.

“I provide approximately 75 per cent of the flights myself,” he said. “For every- one who has been on a flight, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I have yet to have anybody say, ‘That wasn’t a lot of fun, that wasn’t my thing, I’d never do that again.’ It’s been all positive.”

The program currently only has three active pilots based out of Edmonton, though Pawluski said they have approximately 20 more who have expressed an interest.

He hopes in the future to acquire more volunteers from pilots in Northern Alberta where a majority of the patients are located.

Pawluski added that the more pilots they can get, the less “empty trips” they have to run

“They’re going up (from Edmonton) empty and they’re coming down with the patient,” he said. “After the patient has had their procedure or interview, then we have to fly them home and we’re flying back empty again.”

“If we had a pilot who was … based in that area to come down, it would cut our costs in half,” he added. “The more pilots we have from communities that the patients are coming from, the more efficient our service will be.”

McGonigle added, “We’re always looking for volunteers especially ground crew and pilots, because we wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the heroes that help us.”

Pawluski said anyone interested in volunteering, donating or registering for Angel Flight’s services can do so by visiting angelflightab.ca.