Castor helipad cleared for operation

A helipad in Castor is open for landings again after being out of commission for repairs for four months.

A helipad in Castor is open for landings again after being out of commission for repairs for four months.

“We’re ready to roll,” said Marilyn Weber, executive director of Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital. Transport Canada gave the new pad final approval on Friday.

Alberta Health Services ordered the landing pad for STARS helicopters closed, along with half a dozen others around the province, because they did not meet standards.

In Castor, the grade had to be re-levelled, new asphalt was laid and lighting was improved.

“They built the grade up on the southeast corner of it. It was sloped and the slope wasn’t meeting the standards,” said Weber. “Basically, they ripped up the pad, then they filled it and resurfaced it.

“They painted new lines and just upgraded it to current standards.” The height of light standards was also increased. The work took about three days and was finished in the first week of November.

While the helipad was out of action, air ambulances were directed to the Castor airport, two km away.

It was used a couple of times while the helipad was closed. Four to six flights use the helipad each year, she said.

Hospital staff and the community are pleased to see the helipad back.

“When you use an airlift, (it’s) for an emergency. So it gives people peace of mind knowing that they have expedient transfer for the care.

“The other nice thing about using air transport is a specialized team comes on board to deal with emergent conditions as well. They can offer support to our services, which are good, but they have a little more expertise than we do.”

The closing of helipads became a touchy issue in 2009. Alberta Health Services temporarily shut down helipads in Castor, Sundre, Didsbury, Consort, Barrhead and Wainwright, saying they did not meet Transport Canada regulations. Transport Canada was adamant that it had no issues requiring the helipads to be closed.

Alberta Health Services later launched a review of helipads that indicated some improvements were needed.