Critically injured patients who need to be transported by Air Ambulance at some of B.C’s busiest hospitals are looking at extra travelling time.
Since last Wednesday, air operations have been suspended by Transport Canada.
Jodi Jensen with BC Emergency Health Services says seven hospitals are affected, including a handful in Metro Vancouver.
“BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Vancouver General, Surrey Memorial, Royal Columbia.”
Emergency landings not close enough to destination
The problem is if air ambulance needs to make an emergency landing, it’s not able to do so within a certain distance at one of the seven affected hospitals.
“We’re using alternate landing sites at each hospital. For example, for Vancouver General Hospital we would land the air ambulance either at Vancouver Harbour helipad or Vancouver international airport.”
Jensen says the issue is between Transport Canada and Helijet, the company contracted to run the service.
“They have the strictest operating restrictions as in urban settings with landing obstacles. So for an H1 that means that they have no emergency landing area within a certain distance, and they have nearby obstacles in terms of built up areas in urban settings.”
Added travel time could make severe difference
BC Ambulance is using alternate landing pads at Vancouver International Airport and Vancouver Harbour Air, patients are then transferred by ground.
Jensen says it can take anywhere from nine to nineteen extra minutes to get someone to their final destination.
She’s unsure when the service will be up and running again.
Transport Canada explains decision
According to Spokesperson for Transport Canada, Sau Sau Liu, recent Transport Canada inspections discovered areas of non-compliance affecting operations at several hospital heliports, in particular helicopter performance and night operations.
Liu says helicopters permitted to fly into this heliport need to be multi-engine to accomodate potential engine failure.
“H1 heliports are located in high density urban areas where no adequate emergency landing area is available to the helicopter. Should an emergency landing become necessary during landing or take off at an H1 heliport, aircraft not possessing approved single engine performance or not complying with those flight manual procedures and limits would be expected to suffer a hard landing at minimum, or worse, an accident that has potential for catastrophic outcome.”
Transport Canada continues to work with the affected organizations at this time.