Castor helipad not suitable for new helicopters

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The helipad adjacent to the Our Lady of the Rosary Hospital in Castor is not suitable for the new STARS AW 139 helicopters to land, the ECA Review has learned.

The helipad will require upgrades to enable the newer copters, which are larger in length and rotor diameter than their predecessors, to land on the pad near to the hospital.

The landing site can still be accessed by the fully-functional BK 117 older-model helicopters said Cam Heke, spokesperson with STARS Air Ambulance in a phone interview on January 17.

“My understanding right now is that the helipad wouldn’t be landing the AW 139s,” Heke said. “Going forward in terms of when it will be suitable for the AW 139 landing, it will be Alberta Health Services infrastructure who will work with the community [to build an upgraded helipad] but we don’t have a lot of information as to when it will be upgraded.”

He noted that landing options for the newer model aircraft include the airport, adding that STARS personnel and doctors always discuss the best possible solution for the patient when it comes to air transport options.

“They may decide to send the patient with the AW 139, using a ground ambulance to move the patient to the aircraft [at alternate landing sites],” Heke explained. “The back of the AW 139 is like an intensive care environment, so it may still make sense to go with that helicopter.”

Heke noted that the AW 139 is often used at scenes of collisions, open fields or other areas where trauma occurs on roadways or in nature for immediate transport to hospitals in Calgary or Edmonton.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Services (AHS) Media Relations noted that the provincial government has funded $25 million for helipad upgrades to 13 sites over the next three years on a priority basis.

“Sites not scheduled for immediate remediation, which would include the Castor helipad, continue to be assessed on a regular basis and will be upgraded based on need and as funding sources are confirmed,” the AHS Media Relations representative wrote in an email on January 17, noting that the stars BK 117 helicopter will continue to use the Castor helipad.

“STARS will continue to respond to those communities [needing helipad upgrades] with the existing BK 117 helicopters when needed or land the AW 139 at a nearest local airport or predetermined alternate landing site,” the email stated.

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