Practice flights are occurring at both the Comox Valley (pictured) and Campbell River hospitals to prepare for full functionality of the heliports by the end of summer. Photo by Island Health

Heliports certified at Comox Valley, Campbell River hospitals

Both sites should see heliports up and running by late summer

By the end of summer, patients in hospital in the Comox Valley and Campbell River will have an additional service at both facilities, as Transport Canada has certified both rooftop heliports with H1 classifications.

Tom Sparrow, chief project officer with the North Island Hospital Project, said both heliports were certified on June 8, and activation work is now underway to prepare for full functionality.

“This is the final steps in our projection for completion,” he noted and added Helijet will be performing test flights and operational and clinical staff will be working to ensure all employees understand the procedures surrounding helipad operations.

The 153-bed Comox Valley campus along with a 95-bed facility in Campbell River is part of the North Island Hospitals Project; the combined cost of the project was $606.2 million. Both facilities opened in fall 2017.

While both hospitals have been operational since last year, the helipads at both facilities were not certified for operation.

At the official opening of the Comox Valley campus in November, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the province was awaiting Transport Canada’s deliberations on what classification would be given to both facilities.

Canadian heliports have three classifications, explained Sparrow; the classification determines the type of helicopter that can use the heliports.

H1 classification is when a heliport is located in an environment where there is no emergency landing area with 625 metres of the landing pad. An H1 helicopter must be multi-engine and capable of remaining at least 4.5 metres above all obstacles with one engine not in operation.

H2 classification is when a heliport is located in an environment where there are emergency landing areas within 625 metres of the landing pad. An H2 helicopter must be multi-engine and capable of reaching an emergency landing area with one engine not in operation.

H3 classification is a pad located in an obstacle environment, and are reachable by a single-engine helicopter in autorotation (engine failure).

Sparrow said when the request for proposals was issued in 2012, the understanding was the site would be classified as H2.

“Since that went out, the landmarks have changed … because of the amount of community development which has gone up around the hospital. This is happening right across Canada – we’re not being targeted. Transport Canada has specific guidelines which focuses entirely on the safety of those flying the helicopters, the paramedics on board, the patients and those living around the site.”

Once the helipads at both sites are up and running, Sparrow noted patients can expect improved service with patient transfers in addition to organ transplant services.

Air ambulance transport in the Comox Valley has been diverted to the Courtenay Air Park during the day and the Comox Valley Airport at night.

In Campbell River (since 2014), the Campbell River Airport has been used for air ambulance transport.

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