A STARS helicopter lands on the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre for the first time after its grand opening on Wednesday. (Contributed photo)

Rocky Mountain House Health Centre helipad grand opening

Patients airlifted to Rocky Mountain House by STARS are going directly to the hospital with the completion of improvements to the facility’s helipad.

Rocky Mountain House Health Centre celebrated the grand opening of the helipad Wednesday, about a month after it became operational.

The hospital built the helipad in 2016 to accommodate the AW139 helicopter, the larger helicopter flown by STARS air ambulance. However, a town-owned water tower near the flight path had to be removed or painted before Transport Canada would allow STARS to land there.

The town dismantled the water tower in the spring, and Transport Canada inspected the helipad on July 26. It opened on Aug. 3.

“It was great to see a long-standing project come to completion … . It was a great day to celebrate with the mayor, citizens and all the people of the health-care centre,” said Mike Lamacchia, STARS vice-president of operations in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

During construction, STARS air ambulances landed at the town’s airport, eight kilometres from the hospital.

“It wasn’t ideal for the patient. It worked for the time of construction, but now that that’s over, we have a much more ideal scenario,” said Lamacchia.

Lamacchia said transferring a patient multiple times created unnecessary risks, such as equipment falling or intravenous or breathing tubes being pulled out.

“You want to minimize all those transfers for a patient,” he said.

Kerry Bales, chief zone officer for Central Alberta Health Services, said driving a patient to the airport took time.

“If you can decrease the amount of transfers that a patient has to go through you decrease the risk,” said Bales. “It takes more time to transfer the patient, and it does require more hand offs, so being able to have the helipad there is a great tool we have available to provide people with the quickest, most-efficient and safest care possible.”

STARS has made 15 stops in Rocky Mountain House this year. It went there 28 times last year.

sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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