After a rollercoaster of a journey, Alberta Health Services held an official opening and certification for the new helipad at the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre.
The helipad has been operational since August 3 and two days later STARS landed at the site.
“This was definitely not an easy road,” said Mike Lamacchia, STARS Vice President of Operations for Alberta and Saskatchewan. “At the end of the day, the patients are going to be served and for us, it provides direct and quick access to the patient by landing here directly."
In 2013, the provincial government had money to do upgrades on helipads and Rocky rmade the cut. Then in August 2015, construction started on the helipad, and by 2016, there were many complications with Transport Canada stating that the Town’s iconic water tower near the flight path either had to be removed or painted in order for helicopters to land there.
The tower ended up being dismantled last spring with the Transport Canada inspection taking place in July.
Alberta Health Services spent $430,000 to pay for the tower demolition and the relocation of the town, county and regional fire communication antennas, which were located atop the tower.
“It’s important that we recognize that the community had to go through a lot of hurdles unfortunately to be able to get this done,” says MLA Jason Nixon. “The water tower was very important to this community, but the reality also is that helicopters needed to land here.”
Until now, all STARS helicopters were landing at the Rocky Mountain House Airport, located about eight kilometers from the health centre. Ground ambulances were used to transport patients to and from the health centre and airport.
Mayor Fred Nash says he’s glad the work on the helipad is done.
“This particular project had an awful lot of snags, but we overcame each and every one as they came up. We worked really close with Alberta Health Services and with the contractors, so I’m very happy now that it is done."
“It’s a great asset for our community,” added Patrick Alexander, Reeve for Clearwater County. “Certainly from the County’s perspective with the best west country that we have and so many high-risk activities that are going on out there, it’s great to know we have the ability to have STARS to be able to stop here and pick up patients."
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