Earlier this year, the decision was made to suspend operations at the town’s medical Heliport. Here are some answers to questions you may have about the facility and why the decision was made.
Why was the risk assessment done on the facility?
A risk assessment was commissioned to determine the status of the Heliport and to determine the liabilities associated with its current condition and location. The report highlighted transportation regulation non-compliances associated with the operations and maintenance of the facility in addition to risks tied to the facility’s proximity to major sports and recreational spaces. Following the presentation, the decision was made to immediately suspend use of the facility to ensure the safety of both the public and the facility users. Failure to follow this recommendation may have resulted in substantial fines.
Has the Heliport been closed permanently?
No. The current closure is a suspension of service that will last for a one-year period. During this time the Town will evaluate options for air ambulance service to our hospital, collaborating with AHS Air Ambulance, STARS, the Innisfail Health Care Centre, local medical professionals and the Rotary Club (the original donor of the facility).
Why has use of the Heliport been temporarily suspended?
Public safety was the primary concern in the decision. The risk assessment that was done on the Heliport recommended that the Town voluntary suspend use because the facility is not in compliance with federal regulations. There are also operational challenges due to the outdoor recreational uses around the site. This includes the ball diamonds, the parking lot for the Aquatic Centre, and even the public roads adjacent to the facility.
How will patient transportation be affected?
As a standard procedure, patients requiring air transport from the Innisfail Health Centre must be stabilized in the hospital before they are moved by ambulance to the Heliport site. Until June 18, 2021, these outbound patients will be transported by ambulance to the Innisfail (Big Bend) Airport, meaning there will be little to no change in the transportation process. On average, the Heliport facilitates the outbound transfer of between four and six patients annually.
When was use of the facility suspended?
The Town suspended the Heliport’s operations on June 18, 2020. This closure will be in effect for a period of one year (until June 18, 2021). During this time, the Town will evaluate transfer times and determine the costs involved in bringing the Heliport in line with Transport Canada standards.
Are there any other factors to be considered?
With the Heliport in its current location, the Town must provide personnel on the ground to support the incoming aircraft. This staff must be provided at the Town’s expense. Under current regulations, when aircraft land at the Heliport, Town emergency staff must be present for pedestrian and automobile traffic control.
Will there be any consultation before a final decision is made?
Currently, there are plans for a stakeholder meeting involving many of the groups involved in the operations of the Helipad. Representatives from Alberta Health Services, STARS, the Rotary Club, and even local medical personnel will participate in this session. This level of engagement is only the first step in the process.