LONDON, ONT. -- Ornge Ambulance is most recognized in the air, but has been expanding its land operation in the province, the latest base opening in Chatham-Kent last month to serve the Windsor to London corridor.

“Every day in Ontario, critically ill and very seriously ill patients need to be moved between hospitals for a variety of different reasons,” says Andrew Whitmore from Ornge.

It happens when thre is a lack of ICU beds in one hospital or patients need to be moved to a higher level of care - like trauma patients brought into hospitals that don’t have a trauma centre.

“What hospitals in the past have been tasked with, is how to move those patients safely.”

Whitmore says there was a time when hospitals have had to send the staff needed during an EMS transport.

For example, a COVID-19 patient would need a nurse and a respiratory therapist to accompany the patient on the trip to maintain care.

Matthew Laverty, who has worked as part of the air transport team for the last seven years, says the training they receive allows hospitals to keep staff on-site, allowing for more care locally.

“I feel like we’ve been a great benefit here to this community, taking off pressure from hospitals having to send extra for certain calls,” he says.

That also allows local EMS crews to stay active within the community, according to the general manager of Chatham-Kent EMS Donald MacLellan.

“As a result of the added resource, we’re now able to improve our ability to maintain our local resources within the community to be available for emergency responses.”

The new base opened on April 14 and dispatches from the same facility as the Chatham-Kent EMS, the initial purpose was to aid with COVID-19 response

“The base was established to help out with a possible surge due to COVID-19, we are currently staffed 12 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice,” says base manager Beth Hansen.

While an end date to the service is undetermined, other communities like the GTA, Peterborough and Kenora have been using the service for several years, and if shown to be valuable the posting could become part of a larger roll-out across the province over time.