There has been little word concerning the status of the Invermere and District Hospital’s helipad, which had its use suspended in the summer of 2010 due to Transport Canada inspectors discovering several infractions of Canadian Aviation Regulations.
Upgrades are needed in order for the helipad to become functional again.
The upgrades mandated by Transport Canada are wide-ranging, and some include re-locating the oxygen tank for the hospital, marking and potentially moving some of the hydro and telephone wires nearby, increasing the physical size of the helipad, and work on documenting safe flight paths for the helicopters.
These improvements, mandated by Transport Canada, have a suggested cost of between $200,000 and $300,000. Even then, the helipad would only be certified for the largest helicopters with two engines.
While STARS will soon be upgrading their helicopters to this larger size, at present other helicopters often flying in the area for RK Heliski and CMHC (which have emergency helicopters land at the Invermere and District Hospital) would not be allowed to use the upgraded helipad.
“It has been suggested that the Interior Health Authority (IHA) attempt to negotiate with Transport Canada for more flexibility in the standard applied to the helipads,” said Gerry Taft, Mayor of the District of Invermere. “The District of Invermere, as well as the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) have written letters to the Minister of Health and the CEO of IHA requesting assistance in fixing the helipad.”
The KERHD board discussed, at a recent meeting, to send the IHA a formal letter to consider using remaining funds from the Emergency Room project, which finished under-budget.
“We appreciate the KERHD’s desire to have the helipad up and running again,” said Jason Giesbrecht, acute area director in the East Kootenay for IHA. “IHA will consider this when the letter comes in. We are expecting it very soon.”
“I think the public should be informed and concerned,” said resident Leo Kienitz regarding the status of the helipad. “It’s important to know about it. It can take 20 minutes to take a patient to the airport by car [from the hospital], but as you get a little older, that 20 minutes could mean life or death for someone.”