An air ambulance for Svalbard that’s one-third faster, has more room and can fly in more severe weather than the plane currently in use is finally being provided to Tromsø, nearly five years after Norway promised the northern city such an aircraft, officials said this week.
The Cessna Citiation Latitude jet, which among other things can fly between Tromsø and Svalbard Airport in 90 minutes rather than the 140 minutes a propeller plane requires, has been the emergency service upgrades in the archipelago considered a high priority for a number of years.
“If something occurs here, time is a critical factor,” Bente Brataas, manager at Longyearbyen Hospital, told High North News. “We are completely dependent on being able to transport seriously ill patients to the mainland.”
“We are totally dependent on being able to trust that we have a proper plane that can come fast when wee need it. That provides security for everyone living and traveling here.”
The government announced in 2016 it intended to provide ambulance jets to Oslo and Tromsø, but the northern jet was cancelled due to a dispute with Finnmark. Since then there have been other problems with air ambulance services in the north including contract disputes in 2017 and 2018 that resulted in pilot labor issues due to foreign entities submitting bids with lower operating/compensation costs.
The recent announcement allocating a jet to Svalbard was part of the Norwegian government’s proposed budget for 2021. According to a press release, it will be funded by the European Union through 2026 under an agreement with Norway concerning emergency medical services aircraft, with total costs expected to be about five million Euro for 2021.
State Secretary Anne Grethe Erlandsen told High North News that while the jet is expected to be in place “within a rather short period of time,” a specific time frame and the plane’s usage beyond urgent ambulance services in the region have not yet been determined.
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