March 29th, 2020

Still no helipad at the hospital

By Gillian Slade on December 7, 2017. 

The helipad at the hospital remains unused nine months after identifying what Transport Canada required for compliance, and it means delays in getting patients to hospital.

Not being able to use the helipad adds at least 15 minutes to the time it will take to get a patient to hospital, said Steve Harmer, chief pilot for HALO.

The patient is currently taken to the airport, transferred to a ground ambulance and then driven to the hospital.

“It is delaying the whole process of the casualty getting the care that they need,” said Harmer. “What the delay is, I’d love to know. It’s ridiculous that it has gone on this long.”

Transport Canada is holding up the certification with lengthy delays with paperwork and approval, said Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

It is “untenable when this puts Albertans’ safety at risk,” said Barnes.

A year ago Alberta Infrastructure said it was working with Transport Canada through the approval process.

In 2012, it was announced the helipad would meet Transport Canada regulations for twin-engine helicopters, like the ones used by STARS, as well as single-engine helicopters like the one HALO uses.

Transport Canada was at the site in March this year and said it required an alternative landing area for single engine helicopters.

“We have mapped out an area and we have given it to Transport Canada. It will take up a bit of a green space and not more than 20 parking spaces,” Larry Raymond, director health facilities branch, Alberta Infrastructure, said in April. Raymond has since retired.

The northeast corner of the parking lot was identified and cordoned off for the alternative landing area. There is still no sign of any work taking place.

“We are currently awaiting final review on the helipad from Transport Canada. Final review and approval of the emergency landing pad is also required from Transport Canada and is anticipated later this summer,” Robert Storrier, spokesperson for Alberta Infrastructure, said at the end of May. “It is anticipated that the helipad could be operational in late summer, early fall 2017.”

Harmer believes there are still tests to done on the helipad itself. The helipad on the hospital’s roof already has a fire suppression system and containment tank in case there was ever a fire up there.

“It’s a very sophisticated system they’ve got up there,” said Harmer.

It is Transport Canada that must give authorization for a helipad to be used, but who pays for getting it to that point could be Alberta Infrastructure or Medicine Hat Regional Hospital, said Harmer.

The News recently requested an interview with Alberta Infrastructure. An emailed statement was provided instead stating its consultants are doing a final review and updates on the emergency landing area.

“Once approval is received, a final work schedule will be developed based on seasonal timing and weather conditions.”

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