Grounded at night

Prince County Hos­pi­tal’s he­li­pad is only avail­able dur­ing day

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE - BY ERIC MCCARTHY

It could be spring be­fore the he­li­pad at Prince County Hos­pi­tal is avail­able for air evac­u­a­tions af­ter the sun goes down.

Margie Kays, di­rec­tor of Sup­port Ser­vices at the Sum­mer­side hos­pi­tal, said the hos­pi­tal stopped us­ing the he­li­pad at night last April, the same day it re­ceived rec­om­men­da­tions from NAVCAN and Trans­port Canada for changes to the pad.

Life­Flight con­tin­ues to use the land­ing pad for air evac­u­a­tions dur­ing the day, but af­ter-dark evac­u­a­tions are be­ing di­verted to the Sle­mon Park airstrip.

Kays said the di­ver­sion has not added time to air evac­u­a­tions.

“We work closely with both EHS’ Life­Flight ser­vice and Is­land EMS to en­sure that our pa­tients re­ceive seam­less emer­gency health-care trans­porta­tion,” Kays said in a pre­pared state­ment.

“There is con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween PCH, EHS Life­Flight and Is­land EMS so that pa­tients are trans­ported from PCH to the Life­Flight land­ing site by Is­land EMS, ar­riv­ing as the he­li­copter is touch­ing down.”

The in­terim leader of the pro­vin­cial Op­po­si­tion, Jamie Fox, is not feel­ing re­as­sured.

“I’m ac­tu­ally quite dis­turbed about this,” he said. “The abil­ity to do emer­gency trans­fers of pa­tients of the hos­pi­tal to a more ca­pa­ble hos­pi­tal should be pri­or­ity one. We’re talk­ing about life and death sit­u­a­tions here. That’s when he­li­copters are used, when time is of the essence.”

Asked what hap­pens if an am­bu­lance is not im­me­di­ately avail­able when a he­li­copter is ar­riv­ing, Kays pointed to a close part­ner­ship with Is­land EMS and said that is not a sit­u­a­tion the hos­pi­tal has en­coun­tered.

The rec­om­men­da­tions to bring the he­li­pad up to new op­er­at­ing and safety stan­dards, fol­lowed by a reg­u­lar in­spec­tion.

They call for re­paint­ing the mark­ings on the pad and mak­ing the land­ing sur­face larger, in­stalling perime­ter light­ing and ob­struc­tion light­ing on light poles, the re­moval of sev­eral park­ing spa­ces near the he­li­pad and mov­ing and re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing fence line.

Fox said he knows of sit­u­a­tions in Septem­ber and Jan­uary where pa­tients had to be trans­ported to Sle­mon Park for air evac­u­a­tion.

“This can’t be a day­time thing,” he said.

“Emer­gen­cies hap­pen at all hours of the night.”

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions, a Health P.E.I. of­fi­cial ex­plained the hos­pi­tal had to go through a plan­ning process to de­ter­mine just what work had to be done, do a cost anal­y­sis and ar­range the work de­tails.

Once the up­grades are com­plete this spring, ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­pects the work will be sub­jected to a re-in­spec­tion be­fore the he­li­pad is cleared for night­time use.

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