The City of Grand Forks city council has agreed to send a letter to Transport Canada in support of the construction of a heliport at the Boundary Hospital property.
Council received a request to support the proposal from the Interior Health Authority (IHA) on Oct. 22.
Airport manager Wayne Kopan explained in a letter addressed to the mayor and council that the heliport is compatible with the existing site behind the Boundary Hospital and is open to any potential expansion.
“The constructed heliport will not impact any future municipal development in the immediate vicinity of the Boundary Hospital,” he said.
Ingrid Hampf, acute area Director Kootenay Boundary at IHA, told the Gazette that the heliport would be a great benefit for critical patients when it’s completed.
“We are currently talking to consultants about the site, and they have started with the surveys and geotechnical assessment,” she said. “We will have the final design phase completed by mid-to-late December, and expect the tendering to go out between January and February.”
Hampf stated that depending on ground conditions and the weather, groundwork should begin in the spring.
“We expect that it should be completed by early summer once we have Transport Canada certification,” she said.
Jeff Olsen, unit chief for Grand Forks Ambulance Services, is looking forward to the helipad.
“We’re anticipating it being built and we would certainly use it,” he said.
“We’re currently using the grass instead right now, which isn’t the best option. There is the new helipad at Kelowna General Hospital that we can get to an hour, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Olsen is referring to the new wing at the Kelowna hospital that has a heliport built on its roof for emergencies.
Mayor Brian Taylor noted that the heliport project has been discussed for many years.
“The city gave its approval to Transport Canada, so it’s a big improvement in moving patients to where they can get the best care,” he said. “Interior Health may ask the city to co-operate with them in helping to clear the snow, and the city wants to co-operate as much as possible to make this happen.”
Taylor explained that helicopters have limited ability to operate in the dark and inclement weather, so there are some restrictions on helicopter transport.
“They’ve already been landing there so there shouldn’t been too much construction that would occur, aside from setting the pad, paving and making a safe landing area,” Taylor added.
Last May, IHA announced that Grand Forks’ Boundary Hospital would have a heliport built.
IHA explained that the new heliport would be utilized by Kamloops-based emergency helicopter BC Ambulance Services to serve B.C. Southern Interior residents and that the heliport would assist in quicker response times for emergencies.
Construction of the heliport is possible thanks to donations from the Clifton family, which has donated a total of $150,000 to Boundary Hospital.