The Town is taking steps to improve the safety of those both in the air and on the ground in the provision of local air medical services.
A risk assessment recently completed on the Town’s Heliport recommended the voluntary suspension of the facility’s operations to allow for required upgrades and improvements to be considered. The assessment indicated the facility’s non-compliance with federal regulations, and identified a number of operational challenges stemming from outdoor recreational uses around the site.
As a result, the Town on June 18 suspended the Heliport’s operations, pending a review of the site’s air medical service capabilities relative to community needs.
“Taking into consideration the condition of the Heliport, Council has decided to take this opportunity to move service from the current location to the Innisfail Airport. Having a year will allow us to evaluate transfer times and determine the costs involved in bringing the Heliport in line with Transport Canada standards,” said Innisfail Mayor Jim Romane.
“Moving this service to the airport also releases us from having to provide personnel on the ground to support the incoming aircraft. Under current regulations, when aircraft land at the Heliport we are required to have emergency staff on the ground for pedestrian and traffic control.”
On average, the Heliport facilitates the outbound transfer of between four and six patients annually. The Town’s suspension of the facility’s operations will remain in effect for a year,allowing for a thorough review of necessary capital investment and ongoing management requirements.
Interim measures are now in place to ensure the safe transfer of patients via the Innisfail (‘Big Bend’) Airport. The Town will continue to work with stakeholders to establish needs and priorites before developing and effecting a more permanent, long-term solution.
With generous support from the Innisfail Rotary Club, the Heliport was constructed in 1998 on the site of the Town’s former tennis courts. The Town is somewhat unique among communities of its size in owning and operating such a facility, with the majority of others in the province operating under the direct ownership/management of Alberta Health Services (AHS).