A Fort McMurray judge is calling on the province to move quickly in building a helipad in Fort McMurray.
In a fatality inquiry released on Wednesday in the death of CNRL employee Ge Genbao, Judge James Jacques mentioned rapid helicopter transport could help save many lives in Wood Buffalo.
On April 24, 2007, roof support structure for a tank under construction collapsed killing Hongliang Liu, almost immediately, and Genbao while on his way to the hospital.
“Although it would not have made a difference in Mr. Ge’s particular case, it is manifest that there are many circumstances under which rapid helicopter transport to the hospital would contribute greatly to the saving of lives,” wrote Jacques in the inquiry.
Back in May, Alberta Health Services told the Wood Buffalo Health Advisory Council that construction on a heliport would start during the summer and be finished sometime in 2018.
The design included the landing spot being next to North Leading Dock Area, at the rear of the hospital, built between 30-40 feet off the ground.
Senior Program Officer for Capital Management for Alberta Health Services Steve Rees tells Mix News the design work is finished with construction expected to start in the next couple of weeks.
He says he’s 100 per cent confident the helipad will be made over the next year.
“They’re starting and we’ve had the funding so there’s no issues that way so no doubts in my mind, I’m really excited about it.”
As for the recommendation from Jacques, he adds they’re aware of the inquiry but, to his knowledge, had nothing to do with their schedule.
Right now, the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre does have emergency helicopter service through the Local HERO Foundation run by Phoenix Heli-Flight.
The main problem is the helicopter lands at the airport with an ambulance there to drive the patient to the NLRHC, which could take over 10 minutes.
“Time is a critical factor in emergency care, and the current necessity of taking patients to the helicopter base, and thereafter transporting them by ground ambulance to the hospital wastes crucial minutes,” wrote Jacques.
President of the HERO Foundation Paul Spring says he’s excited to see the helipad up and running.
“Once the helipad is there, it will eliminate extra steps and it will decrease the time from where we leave to getting the patient to the next level of care.”
The heliport is expected to be operational by late 2018.