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‘A huge game changer’: Helipad demonstration marks milestone for Bluewater Health

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Tara Jeffrey

Peter Cunnington, COO, Aviation, Ornge air ambulance. (Tara Jeffrey photo)

Community and hospital officials gathered with anticipation Friday morning to watch an official Ornge helicopter landing demonstration at Bluewater Health’s new helipad.

“This is a huge game changer, really, for the community,” said Peter Cunnington, COO, Aviation of Ornge air ambulance, on hand for the event. “I’m a helicopter pilot by trade, so for me, it’s a proud moment to be able to come here today.”

The event also marked a milestone announcement from Laurie Zimmer, vice president of clinical services at Bluewater Health.

Laurie Zimmer, vice president of clinical services at Bluewater Health. (Tara Jeffrey photo)

“Construction is officially complete and we have applied for Transport Canada Certification,” she said, noting that the certification inspection is scheduled for later this month. “We are hopeful our helipad will be fully certified and operational by November or December.

The air ambulance made its landing around 9:30 a.m., followed by an opportunity to view the aircraft and crew.

Phyllis and Rick Clements of Sarnia, whose son Matt, a London-based paramedic, was on board, Friday. (Tara Jeffrey photo)

Members of the public were also on hand, including Phyllis and Rick Clements of Sarnia, whose son Matt, a London-based paramedic, was on board.

This year, Ornge has serviced the hospital on 77 occasions, Cunnington noted.

“That requires the helicopter to land at the airport and utilize land transport to and from the airport, which obviously ties up valuable resources,” he said. “And also prevents us from being timely with our next patient transfer.”

The addition of critical care paramedics on board the air ambulance will be a huge benefit, said hospital CEO Mike Lapaine.

Bluewater Health CEO Mike Lapaine speaks to the crowd gathered near the hospital’s new helipad, Friday. (Tara Jeffrey photo)

“Often if we have a really unstable patient, we may send an emerg doctor and nurse to London for a few hours, and sometimes they get stranded…and right now we need all the help we can get.”

Construction of the $912,000 helipad began in the spring at the former St. Patrick’s High School athletic track. Fundraising was spearheaded by the Bluewater Health Foundation, while $400,000 was provided by the County of Lambton.

The property — which Bluewater Health purchased from the St. Clair Catholic District School Board in 2016 — had been a designated construction zone and closed to the public since last November. The hospital, which serves 126,000 residents, was the only one in the region without an on-site air ambulance.

“This is a culmination of a good two years of work — these things don’t happen quickly,” said Lapaine. “It takes a lot of planning, a lot of discussions with the community and a lot of support.”

An Ornge ambulance lands at Bluewater Health’s new helipad, Friday. (Tara Jeffrey photo)

 

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