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Health Care Foundation steps up for helipad upgrades

Foundation commits to raising $160,000 for safety and single-engine upgrades

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The Whistler Health Care Foundation has announced it will contribute up to $160,000 towards the $608,000 upgrade of the helipad connected to the Whistler Health Care Centre.

"When this whole helipad project got put on hold and negotiations started between Vancouver Coastal [Health] and RMOW (Resort Municipality of Whistler) as well as Transport Canada, we approached them and let them know that obviously this issue was huge for the community and that they should not let the financial side of it get in the way of the negotiations," said Bryan Cleaver, chair of the foundation.

At its Aug. 11 board meeting, the foundation approved what it called "a shortfall" of up to $160,000 for the project. VCH is shouldering the remaining cost of the upgrades, along with funding from the Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District.

"It would take the hold off the project and they could get started right away," said Cleaver.

Tree topping and removal will begin by September, work that will clear the flight path for single-engine helicopters.

No one from VCH was available to speak on the record about the upgrade funding, but a communications spokesperson said via email that the health authority was also in conversations with the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation about the possibility that organization may also contribute to the cost of the upgrade.

The health care centre has been without a fully-operational helipad for four years due to various safety upgrades required by Transport Canada. Upgrades are also needed to certify the helipad to accept H3 (single-engine) aircraft, which is the helicopter most used for area search and rescue and at Whistler Blackcomb.

Cleaver said the foundation will be out in the community immediately to fundraise, but predicts the largest share of donations will come from this fall's annual Indulge, black tie gala.

All the money raised at Indulge will be directed to the helipad upgrades.

Indulge takes place November 14. Check the foundation's website for more information closer to the event at www.whistlerhealthcarefoundation.org.

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