District to land heliports

After several months of talking with the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, and recently getting its blessing, the Rainy River District Social Services Administrative Board is looking to establish landing pads for helicopters to transport people for emergency medical purposes in Fort Frances, Rainy River, and Emo early next year.
Fort Frances Coun. Dave Bourgeault, who also chairs the DSSAB land ambulance committee, reported to council Monday night that the ministry has approved a helipad site here, but unfortunately it isn’t land owned by the town.
“Now, we [DSSAB] have to get into negotiations for use of the land,” he said. “It’s a matter of making it work without spending a bundle.”
Coun. Bourgeault noted he couldn’t reveal the owner of the property, but that it was “in line-of-sight” of La Verendrye hospital.
After the negotiations are settled, the matter will come back to council for approval. If everything goes well, the helipad could be ready within the next few months.
Emo Reeve Russ Fortier, who also sits on the DSSAB land ambulance committee, said yesterday that both Emo and Rainy River have ministry-approved sites picked out and only need the go-ahead from their respective councils.
The benefit to patients in the district would include rapid transportation to trauma centres, higher levels of care on the aircraft (either advanced or critical care levels), and the retention of land ambulances in their current coverage areas.
“We’re trying to improve our service,” said Reeve Fortier.
“It’s a good idea in terms of getting people the medical attention they need fast,” agreed Coun. Bourgeault, adding a heliport only enhances the current air ambulance service with a helicopter’s ability to land in places where a plane or land ambulance can’t reach.
The helicopter that will be used will fly here from Kenora, rendez-vous with the district land ambulance carrying the person in need of medical attention, and then fly with its own special crew to wherever they are to bring their patient.
The only responsibilities the municipalities would have is to ensure reflective pylons—which are supplied by the ministry—are set up and maintained on site, and to maintain the site (cutting grass and removing snow there).
“The cost is a petty cost for what we’re getting,” said Reeve Fortier.
The heliports will be developed in succession, starting with Rainy River, then Emo and finally, Fort Frances.
Rainy River was selected for primary development due to transport distances to a higher level hospital and difficulties now experienced in utilizing the airport on the Minnesota side of the border.