PEI

Prince County Hospital helipad repairs taking too long, says P.E.I. Opposition

The delay in getting necessary repairs done to the helipad at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside is a sign of poor priorities by the MacLauchlan Liberals, says Opposition leader Jamie Fox.

Health PEI says tender for work issued, repairs to be complete by December

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 delay in getting necessary repairs done to the helipad at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside is a sign of poor priorities by the MacLauchlan Liberals, says Opposition leader Jamie Fox.

Health PEI told CBC News the delay is caused by the exacting approval process by Transport Canada.

The hospital's helipad has been closed to night flights since Transport Canada made the recommendation in April 2015. An inspection showed the helipad needed upgrades to meet Transport Canada's new operating and safety standards.

Since that time, 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 had to hire a to hire consultant to plan the upgrades to the helipad and then submit the plan to Transport Canada before doing any work. That plan was recently approved by the government agency and Health PEI has posted the tender for the $200,000 contract. 

Work done by December

Included in the upgrades is work to enlarge and shift the centre of the heliport to accommodate larger helicopters, expand a ditch zone on the ground-level helipad and improved lighting on adjacent buildings for safety. This requires LED warning lights to be added to Summerset Manor and a nearby senior's apartment building.

Hydro wires between Summerset Manor and the hospital will also be marked.

The helipad at Summerside's Prince County Hospital has been closed for almost a year. Work to repair the helipad is expected to be complete by December. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Health PEI said the work is now expected to be completed by December. 

But Fox said taking 18 months to address the repairs was too long. 

"I raised this safety issue with government back in January and was told it would be fixed by this spring," said Fox in a release.

"In the spring we were told it would be fixed by summer. Now we are hearing it may be done this fall. Placing penny pinching over patient safety is a sign of poor priorities from the MacLauchlan Liberals."

Health PEI had told CBC News in January that during night transfers there was 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. 

"There is no delay or difference than if the LifeFlight was landing at PCH," said Amanda Hamel, a senior communications officer with Health PEI, adding it was the same protocol that has been in place for several years when bad weather makes it difficult or unsafe to land on the helipad.

Health PEI said no daytime emergency air transportation  have been been affected to date, and the need for upgrades only affected night transportation.

It said there are about 25 emergency air transports from PCH per year, with about half taking place at night.

With files from Brian Higgins