“The report clearly identifies some key points, some key conditions that need to be met,” he explains. “So now we are in the process of putting a couple of co-chairs into place, and they’ll work towards bringing people together and working towards satisfying the conditions of the report.”
Among the conditions are that it must meet Transport Canada regulations, as well as appropriate rezoning and a commitment that the land around the potential location will not be developed. There also needs to be funding in place, not only for the helipad’s construction, but also for its ongoing operations, as well as an organization to assume responsibility.
“Somebody has to take ownership of it, who’s going to own and operate the particular helipad,” says Raper. “The money has to be secured. Not only to build and construct the helipad, but to sustain it operationally year to year.”
Although a helicopter landing pad was included in the original design of the hospital, which opened in June 2012, Northern Health had determined that it was not needed and could be unsafe. The report will be welcome news for the residents and local government representatives who expressed concern about the amount of time it takes to transport patients from the North Peace Airport. If a patient needs helicopter transportation from a remote location, they are being brought to the airport and then transported by B.C. Ambulance to the hospital, or by plane to another facility.
The review was led by Executive Director of the Fraser Basin Council David Marshall as a third party facilitator between Northern Health and B.C. Ambulance. They were joined on the committee by representatives from the City of Fort St. John, the Peace River Regional District, Energy Services B.C. and the Fort St. John Petroleum Association.
While the implementation team is working, services at the hospital and with B.C. Ambulance will not be interrupted. Raper says it’s too early to speculate on a timeline.