When fully operational, Northern B.C. Helicopter Emergency Rescue Operations Society executive director Steve Flynn said his organization will have two pilots, a doctor and a paramedic on stand by at the Prince George airport at all times ready to take off.
The local non-profit group, which aims to improve the air ambulance service available in the region, want to be capable of being in the air within three minutes of receiving a call. The group has begun fundraising efforts to purchase a helicopter and are working with different levels of government to hammer out a funding arrangement.
"Our mission is to protect the most precious [thing] there is on this planet, and that's human life," Flynn said. "We're going [do] to that by increasing the quality of service offered by the current [BC Ambulance Service] model."
The first base of operations will be the airport, because logistically it's the simplest, according to Flynn. When a patient arrives, H.E.R.O.S. would hand them off to the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) for ground transportation to UHNBC.
In the future, Flynn said the goal would be to have a helipad closer to the hospital, either right on the UHNBC grounds or somewhere else in the city.
The society foresees doctor-led teams flying to the site of injured patients and providing them with a level of care beyond what paramedics can currently offer. The group believes it would lower the number of pre-hospital deaths in the region significantly.
"I think it's going to be busy," Flynn said of the proposed service. "My estimate is that it's going to be one of the busiest medivac helicopters in the province."
That could translate into upwards of 400 hours of flying time in its first year.
In order to make the service a reality, H.E.R.O.S. needs to work out agreements with municipal, provincial and federal governments and build relationships with groups like BCAS, Northern Health, First Nations Health Authority, industry groups and other emergency responders.
H.E.R.O.S. aims to raise 75 per cent of the funds it will need to operate through private donations, with 25 per cent coming from government - however they may need more government dollars at first to get the service off the ground.
"It may not be possible to do that in the first year, the government might have to put in a little more than 25 per cent," Flynn said. "But we're hope that since B.C. needs this service as badly as it does, that we'll be successful in getting the funding that need privately."
Just how much money will need to raised annually to keep the service running is still being worked out, but the fundraising target for the first year is in the neighbourhood of $3 million.
"The purchase [cost] and the operational costs are moving targets until you actually pick your aircraft," Flynn said.
The H.E.R.O.S. board of directors has yet to zero in on what model of helicopter it wants to purchase. Flynn said that it will need to be a twin engine design, capable of flying on one engine if the other fails. The group will also consider performance, speed, range and price.
"[The helicopter will have the] latest, greatest, state-of-the-art medical interior, which is basically a flying operating room capable of dealing with trauma, heart [issues], stroke and [will include] a premature baby incubator."
The group is looking for donors of any size, from big businesses to private citizens.
"We'll have an opportunity for everyone to support the organization, whether it's through a $5 donation, volunteering to help fundraising efforts right up to the large corporations."
So far, local MLAs Pat Bell and Shirley Bond have signaled their support for the project, but have yet to commit any funds to it. The provincial NDP have expressed interest in further studying the plan, but aren't ready to commit to funding it if they form the next government.