Transport Canada brought in a helicopter from down-Island to conduct tests on the helipad on the roof of the new Campbell River Hospital last week.

Helicopter tests new Campbell River Hospital’s controversial helipad

The helipad at the new Campbell River Hospital was put to the test last week as Transport Canada brought in a helicopter to try out the heliport.

The test was part of Transport Canada’s certification process for the hospital’s new roof-top helipad. The helicopter performed at least two approaches, take offs and landings.

The helipad has been a hot topic of discussion in recent months as government officials are concerned that Transport Canada will designate the helipad with an H1 certification – a downgrade from what the old Campbell River Hospital had and which strays from the H2 certification the North Island Hospitals Project agreed to in a contract with the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board.

Campbell River Coun. Larry Samson, who sits on the hospital board, said all indications they’ve received are that the helipad will be assigned with an H1 rating, which could mean a breach of contract. He said if that happens, he’s not sure what the protocol would be.

“They still haven’t requested a variance from the hospital board from H2 to H1,” Samson said, noting that it’s still a game of wait and see as Transport Canada likely won’t report back on the certification until the middle of October.

Island Health told the Mirror in July, when this publication first reported on the helipad concerns, that it was anticipating receiving that certification once the hospital was complete and added that, “Island Health will comply with all of the Transport Canada requirements related to the operation of the heliports at the new hospital campuses.”

Samson said the issue with H1 is that it restricts how many different types of helicopters can land at the Campbell River Hospital. As it is, single-engine helicopters, like the ones coming from logging camps and fish farms, won’t be able to use the helipad, though he said that’s something communities across Canada are all starting to see.

“You’ll probably see them landing down at the (Tyee) Spit or the airport and the ambulance would have to meet them and transport them to the hospital,” Samson said. “Unfortunately, the days of having single-engine helicopters come in are over.”

Sean Smyth, a pilot who sits on the city’s Airport Commission which was tasked by Campbell River council with investigating the helipad, said a survey done by the commission of all commercial B.C. helicopter companies revealed that just 1.6 per cent can land on a H1-designated helipad. Smyth said Mobius, a consultant hired by the Airport Commission to look into the helipad, combined with documentation the commission received from Transport Canada, indicates that the helipad will likely never achieve greater than an H1 rating.

“Because of that design, essentially it’s going to be next to useless because of where it’s placed on the roof,” Smyth said. “Because the rooftop is right before the heliport, it can never be upgraded beyond an H1.”

Samson said the helipad situation needs to be worked out in a timely fashion, as both Campbell River and the Comox Valley have two new state-of-the-art hospitals not providing all the services promised.

“Both hospitals are operational as of (last) weekend so I think it’s important that sooner, rather than later, this part of the medical system is up and running,” Samson said.

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