A new helipad slated to open this spring at Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg is expected to speed up helicopter transport times by as much as half an hour.
The opening of the helipad located atop the new Diagnostic Centre for Excellence building will allow the Shock and Trauma Air Rescue Society (STARS) air ambulance helicopter to directly transfer patients to the emergency or operating rooms at HSC, according to provincial Health Minister Sharon Blady.
“Currently, patients brought in to Winnipeg for treatment arrive at the James Richardson International airport on board the STARS helicopter, and then have to be transferred to an ambulance which is driven to Health Sciences,” says Blady. “Once the helipad opens, they will have direct access to treatment here at the hospital.”
The rooftop helipad will allow elevator access to both adult and children’s emergency and operating rooms at HSC, Manitoba’s largest trauma centre.
“The opening of this heliport will allow patients to access care more quickly at a time when it is most critical,” said Helen Clark, Chief Operating Officer of emergency response and patient transportation with the Winnipeg Health Region. “Taking 25 to 30 minutes off of a patient’s transport time can significantly improve health outcomes for those patients in life-threatening situations.”
The STARS air ambulance flew 541 missions last year to pick up patients across Manitoba, according to Betty Lou Rock, vice president of Manitoba operations for STARS. “We expect there will be one to two flights daily to Health Sciences Centre.”
Measuring 18-by-18-metre, the helipad will only be used by air ambulance helicopters, according to STARS pilot and safety officer Paul Adams.
“The designation of this helipad is H1, which means that only twin-engine air ambulance helicopters may use it,” says Adams, adding that the pad is built to handle a helicopter of double the weight of the STARS helicopter.
STARS helicopters will be flown so as to reduce the impact of noise on the residential neighbourhood around HSC as much as possible, says Adams. “We are able to minimize the noise by descending from a high altitude at a lower power level, and then only going to full power right before landing.”
The flight crews are looking forward very much to the opening of the helipad. They currently fly in to a helipad at the James Richardson International Airport, where patients are unloaded in the open, before being transferred to a ground ambulance.
Flight paramedic Ray Rempel says the new helipad will allow the patient to be unloaded from the rear of the craft, and into indoor shelter within 90 seconds. “Then they’re into a dedicated elevator that takes them directly to treatment,” he says. “Treatment that fast will help save lives.”
The new seven-story, 91,000 sq. ft. Diagnostic Centre for Excellence building will be connected to the new HSC Women’s Hospital, to HSC Children’s Hospital and all critical care services. When it opens later this year, the building will consolidate a variety of sophisticated diagnostic equipment into one location on the HSC campus.
“We’re very excited about all of the work being done on our campus which will support the people and communities we proudly serve,” said Dana Erickson, Chief Operating Officer of HSC Winnipeg. “The heliport will help us to provide the best possible hospital experience for patients and families.”
The Diagnostic Centre of Excellence will be one of the first buildings to be connected to HSC’s new, site-based electrical grid. Recent work with Manitoba Hydro has re-wired the entire HSC campus to be powered by six main distribution points. The new grid – located on the campus itself – contains four levels of safeguards to prevent electrical outages during any civic power outages or natural disasters.
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