Wednesday, 06 March 2013 15:02

Friesen hopes to be soaring as new executive director of HALO

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David Friesen knows what it takes to handle emergency situations.


On Feb. 1, Friesen became executive director of Helicopter Air Lift Operation (HALO), the medical rescue helicopter for southeast Alberta. He also works as a firefighter with the Department of National Defence and Canadian Force Base Suffield since October 2005.
Before that Friesen was a health care aide with Alberta Health Services at the Peter Lougheed Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Calgary and worked at the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital.
He knows it will be another challenge in the medical field. However, he is fully committed to and believes in the value of HALO because he himself has seen the benefits HALO has provided  with his work as a firefighter and as a HALO volunteer. 
“Our goal is to provide the rapid response to emergencies,” said Friesen who has volunteered with HALO since 2007. “The area is so vast and so many areas are inaccessible by regular ambulance. You need the most advanced medical equipment to get to the scene as quickly as possible ... I’m very passionate about remote emergency rescue.
“I’ve responded to calls in the county. Most of our firefighters are EMTs. I know the importance of having a paramedic on scene ... there’s a lot of bad terrain. I can see there’s no other way to access this area other than helicopter. Nobody can provide the same speed or service like HALO can in the Medicine Hat area. We can’t be serviced properly by STARS (air ambulance based out of Calgary). I’ve been on scene and benefitted (as a worker) from HALO and saw what they can do. (For example) I was there when HALO was on scene when we did ground searches for Amy Lewis.”
According  to HALO’s parent organization the  Southern Alberta MedicAir Society, the area covers “the former Palliser Health Region (which) encompasses 52 communities spanning across 40,000 square kilometres (including some of southwest Sask).”
The Southern Alberta MedicAir Society started fundraising for a dedicated medical rescue helicopter for southeast Alberta and it became reality July 4, 2007.
Friesen noted they need to make sure they’re getting their message out in southeast Alberta as best as possible. He wants to connect with Cypress County, Foremost and all the major players and emergency services in the area.
“We’re revamping our social media,” noted Friesen.
Details have yet to be finalized.
Now the Medicine Hat Trade Show is over, the next major public appearance for HALO and Friesen is the Medicine Hat Tigers game March 16 where they will accept a cheque from Paterson Grain company.
In the meantime, there’s a lot of work to do for Friesen. He has to play catch up with not only HALO’s operations, but with HALO’s parent company, the Southern Alberta MedicAir Society which raises the funds for and promotes MedicAir. The charitable society is registered with both the federal and Alberta governments. Friesen added HALO is not in any dire financial straits by any means, but they do need to maintain its connection with the region.
“We have a little (financial) cushion (as compared to) years past, but we can’t take a break and we need to continue to seek funding,” Friesen explained. “We have eight board of director members — yes, we’re in good shape.”
He added they have been fortunate though the generosity of many donors including some 4-H groups and the Drowning Ford Grazing Association (Schuler).
The Southern Alberta Medic Air Society formed as a collaboration of the Medicine Hat Ambulance Service, Medicine Hat Hospital and Bar XH Air Inc. to offer a fixed-wing air ambulance service to serve southern Alberta.
According to the website “they are a joint venture between the Alberta Health Services EMS and Bar XH Aviation whose mandate is to provide rapid medical transportation to patients in need of urgent care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Bar XH’s MedicAir is an integral part of 911 emergency response services in Alberta, and can be airborne to anywhere in North America within 30 minutes. Their advanced life support, air ambulance and crew have helped save thousands of lives...they are nearing 1,000 Medic Air flights per year.”
If you would like to speak with Friesen or to volunteer, phone 403-528-9088 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Ryan Dahlman

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