Ornge air ambulance to land at region's airport for now

Air ambulance transporting patients will now land at the Region of Waterloo International Airport after the downtown Kitchener heliport was closed after landing was affected by a crane erected for construction.

Kitchener heliport closed due to crane obstructing helicopter flight path

Ornge air ambulance transports at least two patients a week between both St. Mary's Hospital and Grand River Hospital. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Ornge air ambulance helicopters transporting patients to and from Grand River and St. Mary's Hospitals will no longer be landing at a downtown Kitchener heliport after a crane erected for a development project has obstructed the route.

Ornge spokesperson Joshua McNamara said last week a flight crew noticed a crane obstructing their route to the Wellington Street S. and Walter Street area heliport.

"The flight crew was able to safely alter their approach and departure paths and safely complete the patient transfer," said McNamara in an email statement. 

"As a result, the heliport operator has closed the heliport and are currently in discussions with Nav Canada and Transport Canada to assess the obstruction to determine if there are safe alternate ingress and egress routes available."

The Region of Waterloo International Airport will now be the interim pick up and drop off point until a new place is found by both hospitals.

Meeting with Transport Canada planned

Mark Karjaluoto, the spokesperson for Grand River Hospital, said while the distance from the airport to both hospitals is slightly greater than the distance to the helipad, they believe for the time being it will be able to function as a back-up plan.

Hospital officials, Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services and Ornge will meet with Transport Canada to discuss both the short and long-term solutions.

"Certainly with all the growth that's going on in downtown Kitchener, the possibility of something like this happening again is definitely there," said Karjaluoto.

"Over the long term though, we are going to have to consider what our options are in terms of a relocated heliport or an alternative process we're not quite sure of."

Ornge transports an average of about two patients a week between both hospitals, averaging at least one hundred for the year.

Karjaluoto explains a lot of planning is involved when arranging a transfer and that includes whether the patient should travel by ground or air ambulance transport.