Opinion » Maxed Out

Helipad needs a Whistler solution

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I tried. Lord — figuratively speaking — knows I tried. After two weeks of, let's be generous here and call them downbeat, yes, downbeat columns, I really wanted to simply entertain this week. Maybe a cute dog and cat story. A post-Valentine tale of looking for love in all the wrong places. A humourous birthday story, since it's my birthday.

But noooooooooo. Some people just can't let that happen. They have to choose now to do things so inexplicably simple-minded, so misguided, so, well, dumb, I can't wait until next week to say, "WTF, people!" Is this the best you can do? Really?

First and most egregious on the list is Vancouver Coastal Health. I have the highest regard for the vast majority of front-line health care people I've come into contact with over the years. They remind me of most of the front-line folks I've worked with in various jobs I've held — overworked, underpaid, intensely customer focused, proud, and labouring under challenging conditions largely "engineered" by the dolts higher up, the ones in management and administration.

Had the project management team responsible for the Whistler Health Care Centre's helipad upgrade been the ones trying to get Whistler mountain developed in the 1960s, we'd all still be skiing at Grouse and this would be a quaint, undeveloped fishing resort. To say they screwed the pooch is an insult to all pooch screwers. The cost, delays and seemingly total lack of understanding of what they were trying to accomplish is breathtaking.

After all the efforts, all the delays all the "unforseen" problems, we have a helipad where can land twin-engine helicopters. But we can't land single-engine machines and no one except VCH knows whether they give a damn about that.

Why is it important? Let me try to explain it as though I was talking to a five-year-old. If I do that, just maybe the management of VCH can understand it, although I have my doubts.

People get hurt on Whistler and Blackcomb. Some can be brought down by toboggan, loaded in ambulances and sent to WHCC. Many have to be packed into a helicopter because of the extent of their injuries and/or the inaccessibility of their location.

When people are hurt in the backcountry, Whistler Search & Rescue almost always extracts them by helicopter. They did so 31 times in the past year. Three times they were able to land at WHCC's helipad. The other 28 times, they had to fly to the municipal heliport north of Emerald. The extra time it takes to fly those couple of kilometres north, load injured people into an ambulance, drive them back to WHCC and dash them into emergency where all that lifesaving equipment and doctors are awaiting them is between 30-40 minutes. When you've crushed your chest or you're bleeding badly or someone's giving you CPR that is a very, very long time and may be the difference between life and death.

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