Helipad still in planning stages

FORT FRANCES—The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board is working to make a landing pad for helicopters to transport people for emergency purposes a reality here in the next year.
Dan McCormick, the board’s health services manager, updated town council Monday night on what’s been done—and what still needs to be done—to build a helipad in Fort Frances.
“Right now, we’re just in the proposal stage. We still need to do a cost analysis, and design and develop a site,” McCormick said Monday night.
He noted the proposed location at this time is on the riverfront, just across from the main entrance to La Verendrye Hospital. The preferred design would be a 100’x100’ square design raised on piers.
It’s preferable to build it on the water here, McCormick explained, because it provides the best access route for helicopters.
As well, a helipad can’t be built on land too close to the hospital (in one of its parking lots, for instance) because of regulations mandating a helicopter only can take off and land a certain distance from the building.
A helipad on the riverfront would be sufficiently far from the hospital.
The benefits to using helicopters as ambulances include rapid transportation to trauma centres, as well as their ability to land in places where a plane or land ambulance can’t reach.
“The helicopter can move from Thunder Bay to Fort Frances in about 76 minutes, [and] from Fort Frances to Winnipeg in 67 minutes,” noted McCormick.
“The other advantage is if you had an emergency on the highway or somewhere in the unincorporated areas, quite a ways out, the helicopter can do on-scene calls during the day and transport patients directly to the hospital,” he added.
“Right now, they have to transport them to the airport and we have to send a land crew, which causes a delay in treatment and getting a patient to emergency.”
McCormick noted the helicopter air ambulance service, formerly called the Ontario Air Ambulance Corp., is a provincially-funded company named “Ornge.”
The helicopters are based in Thunder Bay and Kenora, and can “be sent by a dispatcher into any situation where they feel there’s a need,” said McCormick.
The helicopters are used to transport patients from an emergency scene to a hospital in Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, or even another hospital within the district.
Since other air ambulance helipads already exist in Emo, Rainy River, Lake of the Woods Township, Lac La Croix First Nation, and Atikokan (and with another one currently being developed at Seine River First Nation), patients could be moved between all of these sites.
McCormick said engineers also may be able to design the proposed heliport here with adjacent emergency dock facilities, which would benefit the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and other users of the river and lake.
He noted the next steps include getting support from the Town of Fort Frances (which owns some of the riverfront property that would be used) and Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc.; getting permission from several agencies (such as the MNR to build the helipad in the water); as well as getting funds to first get the design work done and then to build the helipad.
Stakeholders involved in the helipad project include the local DSSAB, Riverside, the Town of Fort Frances, Fort Frances Fire and Rescue, Canadian Helicopters, Abitibi-Consolidated, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, and the Ministry of Natural Resources (Oceans & Fisheries).
Council received McCormick’s report and referred it to the Planning and Development executive committee for its recommendation, with input from the Community Services and Operations and Facilities divisions and the Traffic Safety Committee.
(Fort Frances Times)