December 06, 2011 at 2:53 PM
Medevac chopper makes inaugural landing at Mission Flats
December 5, 2011
By Michele Young
Daily News Staff Reporter
The first medevac helicopter landing at the temporary Mission Flats helipad was deemed a success Monday.
B.C. Ambulance Service spokeswoman Kelsie Carwithen said the inaugural flight was made around noontime.
"It was an excellent and successful transfer. Patient from Salmon Arm came to Kamloops. No glitches. Everything went well," she said.
"We are in fact up and running. As of this morning, BCAS has been using the temporary location."
The patient was transferred to a land ambulance for a six-minute trip to Royal Inland Hospital. Had the helicopter landed at the Kamloops airport, the trip would have taken 18 minutes, she said.
The Mission Flats location was offered up earlier this year by Mayor Peter Milobar as an alternative since the helipad behind Royal Inland Hospital was deemed inadequate by Transport Canada more than two years ago.
Interior Interior Health has plans for a new, interim helipad costing $750,000 but it isn't expected to be built until at least next summer.
Bob Gray of the Southern Interior Medevac Group said he was glad to see the new helipad site closer to the hospital being put to use.
But he was also critical that Interior Health has taken so long to fix up the helipad on the hospital property.
he helipad closed in August 2010. "If it was so important to them, why isn't it open now?" he asked rhetorically.
"Go back to December 2010, they were waiting for the engineers' report. Then they were waiting for the master plan. Now they're waiting for a design report I thought it was done last December.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's not a priority on their list."
Gray said the fact the mayor came up with a solution that hacked down transport time with little cost makes IHA look bad.
"That's a real slap in the face — an embarrassment for them," he said.
"Thirty minutes (transport time) with critical patients is a do or die threshold."
Gray said the medevac group is writing Health Minister Mike deJong about their frustrations and concerns about how long it's taken Interior Health to upgrade the RIH helipad.
"I seriously question their dedication to patient care. No problem once they hit the doors in the hospital. But they've got to remember they're a tertiary care hospital."
The City picked up the $10,000 to $20,000 estimated cost to fix up the Mission Flats location at the former public works yard.
That means Kamloops taxpayers are covering the cost of health care not just with their provincial taxes, but also their municipal ones, Gray said.
"That's double dipping. The City, thank god, used their brains to step up to the plate and came up with an alternative. But why? It was approved by the hospital board in June. What's going on here?"
He was happy to note B.C. Ambulance has put out a call for proposals to award the Kamloops helicopter medevac contract for three years. It goes into effect April 1, 2012, and there's an option for a two-year renewal.
He noted it calls for instrument-flight-rule rated helicopters, which could indicate they'd be flying at night, not just during daylight.
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