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Hospital planning helipad to airlift critical patients

Troy Shantz Bluewater Health is planning to add a helipad to Sarnia’s hospital.
An AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter seen at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre in Peterborough, Ontario. Stormcastle Photo

Troy Shantz

Bluewater Health is planning to add a helipad to Sarnia’s hospital.

Wind studies and flight path research are underway with planners eyeing four possible locations for helicopters to land, hospital spokesperson Julia Oosterman told the Journal.

Options include the hospital-owned vacant land where the former St. Patrick’s high school stood, and the adjacent athletic track, she said.

The helipad should be located near the Emergency Department but not on the hospital itself for insurance reasons, Oosterman added.

The $800,000 plan includes covered walkways to shelter medical staff and patients accessing a waiting helicopter.

Bluewater Health, which serves 126,000 people, is the only hospital in the region without on-site air ambulance capabilities.

Almost 400 patients were transferred last year, and those needing helicopter transit were taken first to Sarnia Chris Hadfield airport.

"Every single minute saved in transporting a patient drastically increases the likelihood of a positive outcome,” said hospital chief of staff Dr. Mike Haddad.

“When we are talking about our most critically ill and severely injured patients – from brain injuries to burn victims to neonatal intensive care unit patients – quick access to helicopter transportation saves lives. What we currently offer is not enough ... and I know as a community we can do more."

The hospital is working with Sarnia, Lambton County, community members, Transport Canada and Ornge, the agency that handles Ontario’s air ambulance services.

In its 2021 budget, approved last week, Lambton County agreed to cover up to half the capital cost of the helipad.

Consultations and community input are needed before a capital campaign begins to raise the needed money, Oosterman said.

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