Grounded at night
Prince County Hospital’s helipad is only available during day
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.