Sparwood Mayor David Wilks has given the Angel Flight East Kootenay request for funding through the Regional District of East Kootenay the thumbs up.
“Speaking for myself as a director (with the RDEK), I am fully in support – I put the motion forward, I believe we should be giving it to them … this to me, is a no-brainer,” he said.
The RDEK will be considering whether to provide funding to Angel Flight as part of it’s five-year operational budget, with options ranging from no support, to up to $100,000 per year to help the charity eventually acquire a larger plane with a pressurized cabin to improve services.
Angel Flight provides free air transport for residents in the East Kootenay that require urgent (but not emergency) medical attention in Kelowna. Currently, the planes in use are smaller, un-pressurized, and the property of volunteer pilots. Given the terrain between the East Kootenay and Kelowna and the weather, flights are reguarly at the whim of conditions day-to-day. An average return flight costs $725, and funding is through donations.
Wilks said that he believed the case for providing funding through the RDEK was overwhelming, and the arguments over the services rendered being a provincial-level responsibility were moot given that the services needed by patients that use Angel Flight are not available in the Elk Valley, and wont be any time soon.
“This is about patients that are either cardiac or cancer that need to go to Kelowna for treatment … and these people provide an unbelievable service for free.
“The least we can do as taxpayers in this area is provide an opportunity for winter flights with a pressurized aircraft,” he said, explaining that given that many who could use a service like Angel Flight are on oxygen – they had to find other ways to Kelowna and couldn’t use the charity because patients with oxygen tanks can’t be taken in the un-pressurized planes.
The RDEK will be discussing and voting on the request for funding at the next RDEK meeting on Friday Mar. 5.
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