Thursday, 03 August 2017 07:00

STARS requires certified landing site at Cypress Hospital

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The ongoing development of the residential neighbourhood around the Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current has resulted in a review of landing arrangements for Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) helicopters at the hospital.


Until recently the air ambulance helicopters landed on the east side of the hospital building near an entrance to the emergency department. A review of that location resulted in a shift of the landing site to a temporary location on the hospital’s west side, which will be used until the original landing site has been certified by Transport Canada.
“The service won’t be impacted,” Cypress Health Region interim CEO Larry Allsen said. “They’ll still be landing to pick people up. So we’ll still get STARS as a service, but it just won’t be where they’ve been landing before until we get that area certified or they may say you can’t certify there, you may have to go over here and build a proper one. We don’t know what that looks like.”
There is not a specific deadline for the health region to obtain certification for a landing site at the hospital, but the intention is to complete the process as soon as possible.
“Basically what they’re saying is this can’t drag on for a year or two or three,” he said. “They want to get a certified helipad site up and running as quickly as we can.”
The health region will use a consultant with relevant experience to provide advice on the application process.
“There’s not very many consultants in this area,” Allsen noted. “So we got to get hold of one, and talk to them, have them come out, do a site visit, tell us what it is what we need to do to get certification. Then we’ve got to get the funding in place and then we actually (have) to put it in place.”
According to helicopter pilot Barry Tolmie, who is also the STARS aviation base manager in Saskatoon, the neighbourhood around the Cypress Regional Hospital has changed significantly during the past few years.
“When STARS first started flying in the province five years ago, we went around and took a look at all the different health regions and the health facilities to see what type of area the hospitals were in,” he said. “Five years ago, when we first started operating, there was nothing really around that hospital at all.”
STARS was therefore able to land on the east side of the hospital, next to Saskatchewan Drive. Since then the new long-term care facility, The Meadows, was constructed, more homes have been built in the subdivision, and additional businesses have opened across the street.
“We’re constantly reviewing as development happens and stuff like that, because we don’t want to be flying over any building, we don’t want to be flying over anybody, because that’s not then a temporary aligning zone,” he said. “If it’s an open area where we can come and go from, where we’re not flying over structures, we’re not disrupting anything, then we don’t have a problem with that.”
STARS evaluated the situation and consulted with Transport Canada, and then concluded there is now a built-up area around the hospital.
“So therefore, in order for us to come and go effectively from it, a certified pad needs to be put in there, and that’s what we informed the health region,” he said.
Tolmie mentioned there are different categories of helipads, based on helicopter performance and the surrounding area, and that will determine the flight profiles for landing at the hospital.
“Our helicopters can meet the most stringent of those criteria,” he said. “So we’re not really worried. It’s more so just formalizing that.”
The evaluation of the area by a consultant will determine whether the certified landing site can be located at the original site on the hospital’s east side, or whether an alternative location will have to be used.
“We may be going to the same place, we may go to a different place, depending on what they find with their profiles,” he said. “Transport Canada has rules and regulations as to what type of approach path, departure path, angles, altitudes and stuff like that. So that’s where the company comes in and knows all that and they can design the heliport to those standards.”
In the meantime, the temporary landing site on the hospital’s west side still makes it possible for STARS helicopters to land without any concerns about safety.
“There’s the store to the south of the highway there, and then there’s the school to the north, but they’re far enough away,” he said. “There’s nothing but open fields in and out of there, and that’s why we can come and go to that area, because we’re not overflying anybody, we’re not overflying any buildings or structures or anything like that.”
STARS regularly evaluates all the hospitals and health facilities in the province where the helicopters land to ensure they can continue to arrive and depart in a safe manner.
“We’re constantly looking at that to make sure there’s no building creep and if there is, then it will be the same story at those locations too if we start looking at it and things are getting build up around it, because we’re here for the long run,” he said. “We don’t want to be doing anything in the short term. We’ve been five years now, and things have been working really well and we’re just working with the different health regions to make sure that we’re meeting their needs and that our needs are met as well too.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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