Helicopter landing pad proposed for hospital

A helicopter landing pad is being requested for consideration by Penticton and District Search and Rescue in the concept plan for renovations to Penticton Regional Hospital.

A helicopter landing pad is being requested for consideration by Penticton and District Search and Rescue in the concept plan for renovations to Penticton Regional Hospital.

Jim Burnett, president of the Penticton and District Emergency Program Society, said with the upcoming design phase for an upgrade and addition to the Penticton Regional Hospital about to be initiated, now is also the time to consider the landing pad.

“As Penticton and District Search and Rescue is called regularly to assist the B.C. Ambulance Service to evacuate injured parties from a number of location in the regional district, we believe such a facility at the hospital would contribute significantly to ensuring those subjects get the best possible treatment in the shortest time after an accident,” said Burnett.

The search and rescue team has both ground and helicopter based rescue capabilities. They said being able to land at the hospital will reduce the need for the patient to be transferred a second time once the helicopter reaches the airport. Burnett said removal of one step in the transportation process would seem likely to improve patient comfort and decrease risks to the patient associated with multiple transfers. The nearest heli-port in the Interior Health region would be in Kamloops — Kelowna General Hospital does have a pad on their new tower but it is not operational yet.

“Using a helicopter to transport an injured party directly to the hospital gives us a much higher probability of having the subject delivered to a trauma centre within the ‘golden hour’,” said Burnett.

The Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District previously approved $700,000 for the development of the concept plan for the PRH ambulatory care centre. The concept plan forms part of the business case that is submitted to request formal approval to proceed with the project. Hospital district chair Walter Despot, said the helicopter pad will be considered.

“The only thing I can say is it is being looked at by the building committee, which is a very positive sign,” said Despot.

The ambulatory care services are for those who are in the hospital for day surgery, procedural services, general clinics and other services. The project is in the planning stage and would still have to be approved by the province. In a letter to Premier Christy Clark in March, Despot requested her support and outlined a “great concern about the deteriorating state of the undersized Penticton Regional Hospital.”

Despot said the hospital does not have the physical space to safely handle the patient volumes and operates at 105 to 110 per cent of its capacity. His letter from the hospital district said the planning, design and construction of an ambulatory care unit is likely to be a 10-year program.

“We don’t believe the province of British Columbia can wait any longer to get started,” said Despot in the letter.

A reply to the OSRHD was received on July 27, stating the letter has been forwarded to Health Minister Michael de Jong. The project is a high priority on the Interior Health capital plan for future projects.

“We have been working on it for a number of years, but this last year we have been working on getting more definite cost estimates of what it would cost to actually build it. The provincial government would still have to approve the money for it and the regional district would fund 40 per cent of it, if the province agrees to build it,” said PRH administrator Lorraine Ferguson.

Initial sketches of the ambulatory care centre have been drawn up but Ferguson said they probably won’t be released until the fall.

“I think the planning will be complete by the end of September, then we will be able to have a cost estimate. That will go forward to Interior Health and ultimately the government as to whether it would be approved for funding,” said Ferguson.