P.E.I. hospital's helipad closed to night flights for nearly a year

The helipad at Prince County Hospital in Summerside has been closed to night flights since Transport Canada made the recommendation in April 2015, CBC News has learned.

Health PEI says Transport Canada inspection showed the helipad needs upgrades to meet new standards

With no night time flights allowed to land on the helipad at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside, EHS LifeFlight is landing at the Slemon Park air strip. (CBC)

The helipad at Prince County Hospital in Summerside has been closed to night flights since Transport Canada made the recommendation in April 2015, CBC News has learned.  

Since the closure was implemented, the hospital has been transporting patients by ambulance to the airfield at Slemon Park, where they are picked up by Emergency Health Services LifeFlight from Nova Scotia.
Health PEI says it will still be another year before the changes are proclaimed in the legislature, and put into effect at the hospital. (CBC)

Health PEI said the decision came after an inspection showed the helipad needed upgrades to meet Transport Canada's new operating and safety standards.

In the meantime, Health PEI says it has worked very closely with the EHS LifeFlight and Island Emergency Measures Service to make sure there are no issues with emergency health care transportation at night.

"There is constant communication between PCH, EHS LifeFlight and Island EMS so that patients are transported from PCH to the LifeFlight landing site by Island EMS, arriving as the helicopter is touching down. 

Unacceptable, totally.- Jamie Fox, opposition leader

"There is no delay or difference than if the LifeFlight was landing at PCH," said Amanda Hamel, a senior communication officer with Health PEI.

Hamel adds the hospital is using the same protocol that has been in place for several years when bad weather makes it difficult or unsafe to land on the helipad.

'A quick repair job'

Prince County Hospital has about 20 to 25 EMS LifeFlights per year, with about half of those at night.

However, Opposition Leader Jamie Fox wants to know why the helipad issues haven't been fixed by now.

"This was identified back in April, and now we're into the winter months, coming almost the full circle of a year?" Fox said. 

"Unacceptable, totally. We had infrastructure money available last year, why wasn't it done in the summer? In my mind, this could have been a quick repair job."

Health PEI says a plan is being developed to have the repairs done by spring. 

There's no estimate on what it might cost to make the upgrades, which include:

  • installing perimeter lighting around the helipad;
  • installing obstruction lighting on light poles;
  • removing several parking spaces nearest to the helipad (and relocating them to another area on the hospital grounds);
  • removing and replacing the existing fence line;
  • repainting the markings on helipad;
  • and, making the helipad landing surface large


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