Ornge (formerly Ontario Air Ambulance) is the air ambulance and ground transportation service for the province of Ontario, Canada, and for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (Ontario). The provision of ambulance services in Ontario is governed by the Ambulance Act, which states that the Minister of Health "has the duty and the power" to make sure Ontario is serviced by a "balanced and integrated system of ambulance services and communication services used in dispatching ambulances". Its headquarters are in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
The name Ornge is not an acronym, but is based on the colour orange of its aircraft and land ambulances. According to the organization, "The 'a' was removed from the name, partly to make people stop and take a second look, and also so that it could be trademarked."
In 2012 Ornge and its associated companies employed more than 400 people, including paramedics, pilots and aviation specialists. Ornge has its own aircraft and land ambulances, with 12 bases across Ontario. It also contracts some operations out to independent service providers.
- 1 History
- 2 Aircraft fleet
- 3 Historic fleet
- 4 Accidents and incidents
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The air ambulance program was established in 1977 to serve remote areas, primarily in Northern Ontario, that are inaccessible to land ambulances or that land ambulances would take too long to reach. Ontario was the first Canadian province to provide a helicopter-based air ambulance system to transport critically ill patients to hospital. Air ambulances are also used to transport medical teams and organs for transplant. A large part of the air ambulance service is involved in serving aboriginal communities, of which there are approximately 117, in 6 treaty areas of Northern Ontario.
Until about 2005 the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care contracted with private operators to provide its air ambulance program’s aircraft, pilots and paramedics. The Ministry directly operated the central air ambulance dispatch centre and was responsible for overseeing the overall effectiveness of the air ambulance program.
In 2005, the Ministry announced that it was appointing a not-for-profit corporation called the Ontario Air Ambulance Corporation to be responsible for all air ambulance operations. This was done to establish clearer lines of authority among the different parts of air ambulance operations. An arm’s-length corporation was also consistent with the Ministry’s objective of moving away from direct service delivery. The corporation's name was subsequently changed to Ornge. Ornge was described in 2012 as being neither a Crown corporation nor an agency directly controlled by the Government of Ontario, but rather a non-profit organisation incorporated under the federal Canada Corporations Act.
The Ministry operated an air ambulance dispatch centre in Toronto until Ornge took over and MATC (Medical Air Transport Centre) became the Ornge Communications Centre.
Today, the air ambulance program has become an integral component of the larger emergency health system in communities across the province.
December 2011-February 2013- financial scandal and police investigation
In 2011 Ornge was involved in a controversy regarding executives' compensation, including President and CEO Chris Mazza. Mazza went on an indefinite medical leave on 22 December 2011 at the height of the scandal. The Toronto Star uncovered that Mazza was receiving $1.4 million a year while remaining off the "sunshine list" of public employees earning over $100,000. That salary made him the highest publicly paid official in the province. Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews stated that Mazza’s salary was "outrageous, shocking and unacceptable". Ornge Global, Ornge's for-profit division, also received $6.7 million in a contract from Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland, which is also part of the audit by the provincial auditor general. Ron McKerlie, who was at the time Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Government Services, Associate Secretary of Cabinet and Secretary of Management Board of Cabinet for the Government of Ontario, was appointed as the Interim President and CEO.
As the scandal spread on 24 January 2012 Ornge fired 18 managers and closed the J Smarts charity program. The next day a new board of directors was named, including former provincial cabinet minister Charles Harnick. A complete forensic audit was also started. On 2 February 2012 Ornge President and CEO Chris Mazza was fired without compensation, as was the chief operating officer of ORNGE Global, Maria Renzella. ORNGE Global GP Inc. and ORNGE Global Holdings LP were placed in bankruptcy under the oversight of a trustee. The bankruptcy move does not affect the provincial air ambulance service, which is operated separately.
On 2 February 2012, the Ontario Health Minister Deb Mathews stated, "Today, the for-profit ORNGE Global GP Inc. and ORNGE Global Holdings LP went into receivership, essentially ending their existence. As a result, Dr. Chris Mazza, president and CEO, and Maria Renzella, chief operating officer, have been terminated and ORNGE has advised us that no severance has been offered. These are vitally important and necessary steps needed to restore the confidence of Ontarians in the leadership team responsible for Ontario’s air ambulance service. The forensic audit continues and we look forward to their findings and the auditor general’s value-for-money audit. We continue to seek and support the changes at ORNGE and continue to work with the new leadership as they strengthen Ontario’s air ambulance service."
On 16 February 2012 Ornge became the subject of an Ontario Provincial Police investigation for "financial irregularities". Neither the police, Mathews nor Ornge would provide details about the nature of the investigation. The minister indicated it was as a result of the preliminary findings of the forensic auditors in examining the organization's financial records. Aside from the police investigation there are two other investigations underway. The Ministry of Health's emergency health services branch is carrying out an investigation of 13 incidents related to air ambulance operations, three of which involve the deaths of patients. Also provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter is investigating Ornge and will present his final report in March 2012.
On 17 February 2012, amidst calls for her resignation from the opposition, Ontario Health Minister, Deb Mathews announced that the government would greatly tighten control over Ornge, including new legislation and a new performance agreement to increase oversight and limit what it can do without government approval, including preventing the sale of assets, such as helicopters and the taking on of debt.
On 23 February 2012 allegations surfaced of unqualified staff running the air ambulance service and of a questionable $14,000 payout to a Brazilian law firm by an Ornge spin-off company. More information became available about the nature of the OPP investigation, including that the subject is alleged kick-back payments for helicopter purchases as well as interest-free loans and cash advances from Ornge to Mazza. Filed bankruptcy documents indicate that Mazza is a creditor of one of Ornge's now-defunct for-profit companies and that he is owed $1 in the proceedings. The opposition continued calls for the minister's resignation as news of medevac operation disruptions in recent weeks surfaced.
On 21 March 2012 provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter released a report that heavily criticized the provincial government for lack of oversight of Ornge's operations. The report details that the government paid Ornge C$700 million over five years and that Ornge also borrowed an additional C$300 million for aircraft purchases. The report details how air ambulance costs increased 20% while transporting 6% fewer patients. McCarter reported how Ornge, "soon begame a mini-conglomerate" with virtually no government supervision. He stated, "Of particular concern to us was the fact that certain of these companies were owned by Ornge's president, senior members of its management team and its board of directors. To the nose of this watchdog, this didn't pass the smell test." The report also details how Ornge bought more aircraft than it needed with government money with the aim of renting them out. Health Minister Deb Matthews said that the province will act on all of McCarter's recommendations.
On 9 February 2013 Dr. Chris Mazza received $4.6 million in public dollars in his last two years at Ornge, including salary, bonuses, cash advances and two housing loans. The police investigation continues.
May 2014 Canada Labour Code charges
On 29 May 2014 the organization was charged with 17 offences under the Canadian Labour Code. All of the charges are in relation to a 31 May 2013 Sikorsky S-76A helicopter accident, which resulted in the deaths of two Ornge pilots and two Ornge paramedics. The aircraft crashed one kilometre from the Moosonee, Ontario airport, shortly after take-off. Court documents disclosed that the charges included permitting pilots to fly the S-76A helicopter "without adequate training in the operation of that specific aircraft," failure to provide the pilots with "a means to enable them to maintain visual reference while operating at night", that the aircraft captain, Donald Mark Filliter had "insufficient experience in night operations", that his pilot proficiency check in the helicopter was incomplete, plus the two pilots did not meet experience requirements to be flying as a crew. The organization was also charged with failure to ensure employee safety resulting in the death of the two pilots and also failure to ensure that the organization's supervisors and managers had sufficient knowledge of the Canada Labour Code. In October 2013, company officials had been warned by the Moosonee base safety officer that inexperienced pilots and night operations in combination was a high risk for a fatal accident.
On 28 August 2008 Ornge announced the purchase of ten new AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters to replace their fleet of Sikorsky S-76 helicopters, to be delivered over a period of two years beginning in late 2010. The S-76 helicopters were previously owned and operated by Canadian Helicopters, but are now owned by Ornge and operated by Canadian Helicopters. The S-76 helicopters will be serviced by Canadian Helicopters until April 2012.
- Moosonee Airport (2)
AgustaWestland AW139 located at:
- Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (2)
- Ottawa International Airport (1)
- Sudbury Airport (1)
- London International Airport (1)
- Kenora Airport (1)
- Thunder Bay Airport (1)
From the first long weekend of the summer to Labour Day, one Toronto crew was relocated and based out of Muskoka Airport for the increased number of trauma calls in cottage country during this period. This practice stopped after the summer of 2010.
As of the end of 2009, Ornge has begun operating its own fleet of Pilatus PC-12NG fixed-wing aircraft from its bases in:
Land critical care ambulance
ORNGE operates three land transfer bases and 18 Crestline Coach TypeIII ambulances in Ontario
- Markham Base (just north of Toronto) - both Critical Care and the Ted Rogers Pediatric Transport teams
- Ottawa Base
- Peterborough Base
Standing agreement aircraft
Additional aircraft are available under the Standing Agreement (as and when required) contract with other operators:
- Canadian Flyers International operating a Piper PA-31-350 Chieftain from the Toronto/Buttonville Municipal Airport and Piper PA-31 Navajo from Dryden, Ontario
- Wabusk Air operating a Beechcraft A100 King Air from Moosonee Airport
- Thunder Airlines - Beechcraft A100 King Air; Cessna 208B Grand Caravan; and Mitsubishi MU-2 from Thunder Bay International Airport, Sudbury Airport and Timmins/Victor M. Power Airport
- Flightexec at Toronto/Buttonville Municipal Airport and London International Airport
- SkyCare Air Ambulance operating two Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner aircraft at Sioux Lookout Airport.
- Air Bravo operating Pilatus PC-12 aircraft out of Timmins, Sioux Lookout, Elliot Lake, and Lake Simcoe Regional Airport.
|Aircraft||Country of Manufacture||Type||In Service||Notes|
|AgustaWestland AW139||Italy||multi-purpose medium-size commercial helicopter||10||owned and operated by Ornge|
|Sikorsky S-76A||United States||multi-purpose medium-size commercial helicopter||2||former contract with Canadian Helicopters. 1 lost in crash 31 May 2013. All others (5) grounded.|
|Pilatus PC-12 NG||Switzerland||single engine turboprop||10||owned and operated by Ornge; used in Northern Ontario|
February 2015 sale
In February 2015 reports surfaced that Ornge may look to sell its AW139 fleet due to maintenance costs and their unsuitability for ambulance work. Two PC12 are considered surplus to requirements and are for sale. “[The AW139] burns a lot of fuel. It’s a big airplane. It is costly to maintain because of the complexity of the machine, more costly than say a simpler machine ... the AW139s are more suited to flying to offshore oil platforms and that few other agencies use them in an air ambulance role," according to CEO Dr. Andrew McCallum. Two of the AW139 units purchased were equipped with 12 seats, and were unsuitable for ambulance use. These units were sold in 2013.
- Bell 212 1977-1990s
- BK-117 1988-1989 - trial only with aircraft destroyed by fire
- Beech 200
Accidents and incidents
- On 31 May 2013 a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed after departure from Moosonee, Ontario. Two pilots and two paramedics were on board. There were no survivors.
- On 8 February 2008 a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter crashed while attempting to land at a remote helipad at night near Snake Lake, Ontario near Temagami, about an hour north of North Bay, Ontario. The 2 pilots and 2 paramedics aboard suffered injuries requiring hospitalization.
- On 28 January 1989 BK-117A-3, registered C-GIRB, was in trial use and burned on tarmac after landing at Buttonville Municipal Airport in Toronto.
- Ambulance Act, R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER A.19 (1990),
- Ornge (2009). "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- "Special Report March 2012 Ornge Air Ambulance and Related Services" (PDF). Ofﬁce of the Auditor General of Ontario. March 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
- Northern Ontario School of Medicine (undated), Aboriginal Communities in Northern Ontario, retrieved 30 May 2014
- Talaga, Tanya; Donovan, Kevin (March 28, 2012). "Deb Matthews: Powerless over ORNGE because it was a federal charity". Toronto Star. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
- "Ornge Communications Centre". Ornge.ca. 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. "MOHLTC - EHS - Air Ambulance Program". Health.gov.on.ca. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
- Donovan, Kevin (22 December 2011). "ORNGE president was paid $1.4 million per year". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- "CAW - Lewenza tells ORNGE to look after its internal customers". Caw2002tca.ca. 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- Donovan, Kevin (24 January 2012). "ORNGE lets 18 go, shutters charitable entity". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Ferguson, Rob (2 February 2012). "ORNGE names new board of directors". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Donovan, Kevin (2 February 2012). "Founder of ORNGE Chris Mazza fired". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- CBC News (17 February 2012). "Minister tightens leash on ORNGE Health minister to boost oversight at air ambulance service under investigation by police". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
- Talaga, Tanya and Kevin Donovan (23 February 2012). "ORNGE fallout now includes Brazilian law firm". Toronto Star. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
- CBC News (21 March 2012). "Ornge overspending slammed by Ontario auditor general". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- Toronto Star 9 February 2013
- "Ornge, Ontario's air ambulance service, faces 17 labour code charges - Toronto - CBC News". Cbc.ca. 2013-05-31. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
- "Ornge purchases new fleet of high performance medically equipped helicopters - Signals a new era in transport medicine for Ontario patients" (PDF) (Press release). Ornge. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- "Ornge and Canadian Helicopters Income Fund Announce Agreement in Principle" (PDF) (Press release). Ornge. 2008-09-03. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
- Ornge Statement on Rotor Wing Operations [sic]
- "Ornge gets closer to the action" (Press release). Ornge. 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2009-08-24.
- "Transport Medicine Centre of Excellence". Ornge.ca. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Sioux Lookout Base". Ornge.ca. 1981-07-06. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Timmins Base". Ornge.ca. 1981-07-06. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Gta Cclt Base". Ornge.ca. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Ottawa CCLT Base". Ornge.ca. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Peterborough CCLT Base". Ornge.ca. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
- "Our Vehicles". Ornge. 2012. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
- 31 May 2013 7:53 AM ET (2013-05-24). "4 killed in Ornge air ambulance crash in northern Ontario - Sudbury - CBC News". Cbc.ca. Retrieved 2013-05-31.
- "ORNGE looks to sell off high-priced helicopter fleet". thestar.com. 12 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- "Die-cast Dispatch Ontario Air Ambulance System". Emsnews.com. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
- Donkin, Karissa (2 June 2013). "ORNGE helicopter crash: Transportation Safety Board finishes examining crash site". The Star. Toronto. Retrieved 3 June 2013.
- "Transportation Safety Board of Canada - Aviation Investigation Report A08O0029". Tsb.gc.ca. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
- "ASN Aircraft incident 28-JAN-1989 MBB BK 117A-3 C-GIRB". Aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
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