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Whistler Health Care Centre granted H2 status

Centre obtains important status on Christmas Eve



Whistler's helipad was put to good use over the holiday weekend with up to three helicopters per day transporting patients from the mountains.

"We were busy with the helicopters and we were really pleased to have it up and running," said Anne Townley, manager of acute care services for the Whistler Health Care Centre.

The Whistler Health Care Centre finally got its H2 status as a Christmas present Dec. 24 after Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) completed all the necessary upgrades.

Duel-engine helicopters can now land and take off again, providing more efficient service for patients lifted from the mountains.

"It means that we can provide prompt helivac service off the mountain directly to the Whistler Health Care Centre and air ambulances can land here and pick the patients up directly, which means there isn't the delay that going out to the municipal heliport would have created," Townley said.

That delay had cost health service providers about an hour of critical time in transporting patients to the hospital. Without the helipad in operation an air ambulance had to pick the patients up at the municipal heliport, between Whistler and Pemberton then transport them. This happened at least once that Townley is aware of in the month that their helipad was shut down.

"Time is of the essence," she said. "They talk about that first golden hour and it really is true to get here as soon as they can for those critical patients. That's why it was critical to have our heliport up and running again."

The upgrades that have been made so far - the tree removal at day lot 4 and road closures at Blackcomb Way and Lorimer Road - are the basic upgrades that needed to complete for Transport Canada to grant H2 status over the winter, with the confidence that VCH will complete the remaining upgrades as soon as possible in 2011.

These include some more upgrades to the helipad itself, the lowering of streetlights around the helipad - to which Transport Canada gave a temporary exemption from doing in December - and a permanent traffic management plan.

Townley said she hopes to have the traffic management plan in effect by March or April. VCH is currently utilizing RCMP and Whistler Blackcomb staff for the road closures.