UPDATED: STARS now landing at Rocky health centre

New heliport open

A new and bigger heliport at Rocky Mountain House Health Centre was open for business as of Thursday morning.

Kerry Bales, chief zone officer of Alberta Health Services (AHS) Central Zone, said AHS was pleased the heliport could be open in time for the August long weekend.

Rocky Mountain House is a fair distance from the Hwy 2 corridor and the hospital serves a huge area west of town, he said.

“There is a large volume of recreational activity that occurs there and there’s always potential for there to be trauma or severe injury. Having access to that helipad to allow STARS to medevac patients if needed in severe situations is just an incredible service,” Bales said.

Industries like forestry also operate in the Rocky area.

The new hospital heliport was built in 2016 to accomodate the AW139 helicopter, the larger helicopter flown by STARS air ambulance. But a town-owned water tower near the flight path had to be removed or painted before Transport Canada could give approval to land at the heliport.

The tower was dismantled this spring and Transport Canada inspected the new heliport on July 26.

STARS helicopters have been landing at the Rocky Mountain House Airport, located about eight km from the health centre, during heliport construction that began in August 2015 up until the tower’s removal. Ground ambulances transported patients to and from the health centre and airport.

AHS spent $430,000 for tower demolition and the relocation of the town, county and regional fire communication antennas that were located on top of the tower.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the professionalism of Alberta Health Services for the betterment of the town of Rocky Mountain House, the county and the many visitors who come here. A super job well done,” said Rocky Mountain House Mayor Fred Nash in a press release.

AHS said STARS helicopters are more than ambulances in the air. They are sophisticated medical environments brought directly to the patient and can make a difference when time is of the essence.

A full array of medications and equipment is at the disposal of the air medical crew. STARS personnel are able to administer life-saving drugs, defibrillate a patient’s heart, transfuse blood, and peer inside a patient using portable ultrasound.

During the 2016-17 fiscal year, STARS flew 26 missions to Rocky Mountain House which may have included some scene calls in the area.

That year STARS flew a total of 1,529 mission from its bases in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie and include some communities in British Columbia.

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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