Helipad closure bodes ill for hospital: Sundre Mayor

Sundre Mayor Roy Cummings said townspeople were shocked that the province suddenly moved to temporarily close the helipad at the local hospital.

Sundre Mayor Roy Cummings is angry the community wasn’t consulted before this helipad was temporarily closed.

Sundre Mayor Roy Cummings said townspeople were shocked that the province suddenly moved to temporarily close the helipad at the local hospital.

“They look at it just as one step towards the downgrade or the closure of the hospital.”

Starting Wednesday, air ambulances coming to Sundre will have to land at the local airport. Didsbury, Consort, Barrhead, Castor, Wainwright, Westlock and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton will also see their helipads shut down.

Cummings is also not happy that the town knew nothing of the government’s plans. He only found out when the media started calling on the weekend.

“It’s bad when you learn through the Calgary Herald what’s happening in your town,” he said.

It’s especially annoying to Cummings because he just wrote a letter to the province a few weeks ago about the need to consult communities on any changes to health care after a leaked memo seemed to suggest some rural hospitals could be closed.

Cummings said the hospital received a letter Friday telling them of the closure. Alberta Health Services has said it also sent letters to the mayors, reeves and MLAs of affected communities. But Cummings went into his town office Monday to check and no letter had been received.

Alberta Health Services says the helipads don’t meet new regulations by Transport Canada.

But a Transport Canada official says none of its rules have changed.

Cummings said it may be legitimate that there are regulations that need to be addressed. But it is strange how there seemed to be so little advance warning.

“You put a lot of faith and trust in the minister to kind of keep us well informed,” he said. “I don’t know why there was no consultation about this.”

The hospital is a key institution in small communities. It must be maintained if the town hopes to retain its nine doctors and it is important for attracting new residents.

Cummings said the area is hugely popular during the summer recreation months. “We get inundated with people. Any loss of time to get people medical service is critical.”

An Alberta Health spokesperson could not be reached for comment Monday.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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