Construction on a heliport at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre is expected to begin in late 2017.
Alberta Health Services announced on Tuesday the new landing spot will be located at the rear of the hospital for easier access to the emergency department, ICU and operating rooms.
“We are excited to see this project move forward,” Dr. Kevin Worry, Medical Director, AHS North Zone said in a release. “The new location is ideal as it offers a direct route to key patient care areas, like our emergency department, and there is a clear flight path to and from the hospital.”
Right now, when a person needs to medevaced, helicopters land at the Fort McMurray airport then a ground ambulance transports the patient to the hospital.
Paul Spring, President of the Local Hero Foundation, which provides emergency aircraft services throughout northeast Alberta, tells Mix News although he’s excited for the news, this isn’t the first time they’ve heard this announcement.
“The last one was announced, which was a follow up to a very severe motor vehicle collision we had on Highway 63,” Spring said. “The highway did get cleaned after that but the initiative to build the helipad at Northern Lights fell apart and it never happened.”
Spring says without a heliport it creates an abundance of issues, especially if the patient is flown in from the north.
“We may be bringing in a patient with a severe head injury and we actually have to fly passed the hospital to go to the airport so that the patient can be driven back to the hospital.”
However, he says if the heliport is built it will save those precious minutes and save more lives.
“In these severe trauma cases it’s hard for us to do that. We just fly by cringing wishing we could land downtown but we can’t.”
Meanwhile, Spring notes from an aviation standpoint, the layout of the proposed heliport makes a lot of sense and the location of the landing pad makes things easier for all parties involved.
“It allows us some really good flight approach and departure paths as well as providing safety for people on the ground and noise mitigation for the rest of the community. We don’t want to be flying into the hospital late at night – waking everybody up.”
Since last fall, AHS and the prime consultant, Stantec, have been meeting with staff, physicians and stakeholders to explore options of where to build the new heliport. AHS says Transport Canada has reviewed the proposed location and has no significant concerns at this time.
Consultants are now working on project design, timelines and budget.