UPDATE: Transport Canada says B.C. air ambulance service will resume at four hospitals, including Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, Sechelt Hospital, and Vancouver General Hospital (day flights only). Flights should also resume shortly at BC Children’s and BC Women’s Hospitals, subject to site modifications.
B.C. air ambulances are now facing a rocky landing thanks to a ruling by Transport Canada that has denied them access to seven hospitals’ heli-pads in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
The federal transport agency recently decided that the fleet of Sikorsky 76C helicopters run by Helijet International Inc. do not meet the requirements for a safe landing and take-off in heavily populated areas.
The aircraft are now not allowed to land at several major hospitals, including Vancouver General Hospital and B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Transport Canada says the choppers lack the proper visibility and the agency is uncertain whether the aircraft could clear tall buildings if one of its engines failed.
The Sikorsky 76Cs were bought by the province through a $104-million, eight-year contract with Helijet five years ago.
At the time, the government was reportedly told by other bidders that Helijet’s aircrafts weren’t the right ones for the job and were not as “future-proof” as the ones flown in Alberta, the AgustaWestland AW139s.
Both Transport Canada and Helijet say negotiations on the decision continue, but now Helijet may face a lawsuit from the province for not fulfilling the remainder of its contract.
B.C. Emergency Health Services says it is doing its best to mitigate the impact on patients.
“We are mitigating that impact obviously through landing at nearby sites that are close to these hospitals and transporting patients under the care of critical care paramedics,” said COO Jodi Jensen.
–With files from Ted Chernecki