By Kevin J. Sabo For the Advance
The closure of the Castor Hospital helipad was again before council, during their May 25th meeting.
Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Robblee gave council more background surrounding the closure during the meeting.
“In 2020, I heard from Covenant (Health) that an auditor audited all the helipads in rural (Alberta), without Covenant’s knowledge,” said Robblee.
“Then the report came in. We worked with Covenant staff in 2020 to meet all the deficiencies. That was the last I heard of it.”
However, due to the proximity of the helipad to the road, Alberta Health Services and STARS decided to begin using the airport for patient transfers, citing Navigation Canada concerns.
“(At the previous meeting between the Town, Covenant Health, and Alberta Health Services), we were told that the helipad had closed in February, and Covenant was not made aware of that,” said Robblee.
The information did not sit well council.
“I think we should be looking into it more,” said Coun. Trudy Kilner.
“We can’t lose it. This is our rural area, we need it.”
Mayor Richard Elhard did inform council that he had a meeting with the new administrator of the hospital and all incidents requiring the helicopter will be documented, noting how long flight crews had to wait for EMS transport, added transport times, and the like.
“(The new hospital administrator) seemed pretty invested in it,” said Elhard.
The major issue cited for the helipad, as noted, is the proximity to the road, though during the previous meeting the proximity to Paintearth Lodge, Theresetta School, and residences in the area were all cited as issues as well, something Coun. Rod Zinger took issue with.
“It is amazing, they fly over lodges and seniors’ houses (in urban areas) no problem, but here it’s a problem,” said Zinger.
“We have to keep working on this. We can build another helipad back into Pals Park.”
“We would have to hire a helipad engineer (to design a new helipad),” added Robblee. “But the road is still an issue. They might still say no. Alberta Transportation says the road can be so close.”
Mayor Elhard did inform council that several other options were floated to Alberta Health Services and STARS, but they were all denied.
“It seemed like whatever the alternative was, there was no accepting it,” said Elhard.
“I think we need to take a hard look at this again. Dr. Hanton especially is not happy with this decision.”
During the meeting, Elhard did inform council that he was still waiting to hear back from MLA Nate Horner on the issue.
It was also decided that administration would attempt to set up another meeting with the parties, this time inviting Navigation Canada, who has federal jurisdiction over heliports, to the meeting as well for their take on the issue.
More to come.