Residents said they are worried it would take too much time for someone in critical condition to make it from the airport to the hospital, a drive Project Director Tom Sparrow said will take approximately 10 minutes.

However, Northern Health Director of Communications Steve Raper say that a helipad only makes sense for hospitals that are located far away from an airport.

“In most of our small, northern communities, you’re five minutes away from the airport,” he argues, adding landing at the hospital really wouldn’t save much time in this case. “We don’t have a lot of evidence that says if you’re five or ten minutes from an airport, that you’re actually improving survival outcomes by having the helipad.”

He adds that even if there were to be a helipad at the new hospital, B.C. Ambulance would still have to transport the patient. He also raised issues about landing a helicopter in the middle of a community, including what could happen if there was a problem with the helicopter.

Raper says that financial issues didn’t really come into play when making the decision, but added that there are maintenance costs associated with Transport Canada and maintaining the helipad.

“That’s one factor in a whole litany of factors, the most important, of course, being the survival outcomes and safety for the community and people at the actual facility.”

Issues with having a helipad at the new hospital were first brought up when designs for a new neighbourhood along the East bypass road were being presented in 2008. At that time residents were worried that a helipad would create problems, as it would prevent construction higher than one story in the surrounding area.