Clearwater’s hospital should have a heli-pad

We've been writing editorials in favour of the idea for many years. What's the delay?

Last week we recycled an old editorial to talk about an idea we’ve been promoting for a long time – creating a park out of the property at the northwest corner of Dutch Lake.

This week we’re going to talk about another idea we’ve been pushing for a long time – a helicopter landing site next to Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital.

As reported in the story posted March 30, last Sunday a BC Ambulance helicopter used the parking lot of the vet clinic by Camp Two Road as a landing site.

Other possible landing locations, such as Clearwater’s old airstrip or the Yellowhead Helicopters hangar, were either covered with too much snow or otherwise unavailable.

This is far from an optimal solution to the situation.

In last Sunday’s incident, the emergency crew on the helicopter decided that the patient should be transported to Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital rather than flown to Kamloops or Kelowna.

If the ambulance that brought the patient from Blue River had met the helicopter at the hospital, transferring him or her there would have been a simple matter. As it was, the ambulance had to go back the way it had come several kilometers.

A quick search through our files shows several other incidents where a dedicated heli-pad at the hospital would have proved useful.

For example, in February, 1992, a Mike Wiegele helicopter landed on the road in front of Clearwater’s hospital with an injured logger. The Barriere resident had been hurt while logging in the Tum Tum area. A German doctor who had been staying at Wiegele’s insisted the helicopter land in Clearwater so the patient could be stabilized.

In May, 2005, another Wiegele helicopter brought to the hospital one of the heli-skiing company’s guests who had been the victim of an avalanche. Acting to a pre-arranged plan, police cordoned off the parking lot for the landing.

Back in December of 2008, Andrew Neuner, chief operating officer for the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap with Interior Health, reported to the Thomson Regional Hospital District board that a consultant had been hired to investigate helicopter access for the hospitals at Clearwater, Ashcroft, Lillooet and 100 Mile House.

Steve Quinn, then the TNRD director for Blue River-Avola (Area B), was quoted as saying, “The regional district has argued for years that Clearwater should have one. We have so much remote activity here, year round. It’s not just heli-skiing. It’s forestry, mining exploration and so on.”

In 2009, District of Clearwater council moved to remove two restrictive covenants on property next to the hospital to allow construction of a heli-pad.

It is long past time for that project to go ahead.