Brent Bidston is the president of Angel Flight East Kootenay. Black Press file photo.

Brent Bidston is the president of Angel Flight East Kootenay. Black Press file photo.

Angel Flight East Kootenay seeks RDEK funding support

Elected officials with the regional district have asked staff to look at providing some funding support for a local volunteer medevac service based out of the Elk Valley.

Brent Bidston, with Angel Flight East Kootenay, gave a presentation to the Regional District of East Kootenay describing the purpose of the volunteer medical transport service, and outlining the challenges faced by rural patients who must travel for specialist medical appointments in Kelowna.

The volunteer service, operational since early 2019, has provided approximately 160 flights for patients from the East Kootenay requiring medical appointments in the Okanagan, which has been accomplished by raising $58,000 in donations.

“We drop off patients that need to be there for several days. We do take treat-and-return patients where we’ll wait for them and take them back the same day and we bring back patients that were taken up by air ambulance and have no way to get home,” said Bidston.

Angel Flight East Kootenay has volunteers, and volunteer pilots, in places around the region, including such as Invermere, Cranbrook, Creston and Nelson.

However, the next step is acquiring a pressurized, twin-prop aircraft that can handle some more adverse weather challenges, such as a Cessna 340 or Cessna 414.

“Looking forward, we can just carry on the way we are, and that’s certainly one option and we will continue to do that, but we lose a lot of flights due to the weather and our main problem is the lack of an aircraft that is certified to fly forecast icing conditions,” Bidston said.

“We do have several highly qualified pilots within our group that could fly such an aircraft. Operationally, from our point of view, the aircraft would help us with weather, with the terrain we have to fly over, and because of the altitude we have to go to, we have to have oxygen on board these aircraft. That is not for medical purposes, it is to comply with aviation law, we do not provide medical services on board.”

Such an aircraft comes with a capital cost of approximately $400,000.

“This will help us address every one of our problems,” added Bidston. “It won’t work in all weather conditions, but a lot more than we have at the moment, a lot better than what we’ve got.”

Though Bidston didn’t articulate what kind of financial support the organization was seeking from the RDEK, the board voted to put the issue to staff to assess the potential budgetary impact for providing funding support to Angel Flight East Kootenay.

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