Does the city of Melfort need a helipad at the local hospital?
The topic led to a lengthy debate among council Thursday, during a special meeting. The city’s health advocacy committee recently began investigating the feasibility of a helicopter landing pad at the hospital with a resolution asking the committee seek “gifts in kind” to pay for the project. The resolution was amended to not seek funding until the newly formed Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) show support for the construction.
Councillor Doug Terry was the lone member of the group to vote against the motion. Terry said he’s not opposed to the helipad, but argued the city needs to stay focused on other healthcare items.
“I am just saying slow down. Let’s go back to point one, which is what the intent of that committee was,” Terry said after the meeting. “That was to seek enhanced diagnostic equipment capability in our community. To me, I’m afraid this would take a priority away and have everybody running towards the helipad and forget what we’re trying to do.”
Currently, when STARS Air Ambulance is dispatched to the city, they land at the airport and are met by ground ambulance to transfer patients to Saskatoon or Regina. There are approximately 33-50 transfers a year, according to Terry. He said council has been working with the province on equipment purchases, such as a long-awaited CT scanner, and those discussions need to continue.
“If you are lobbying the government to enhance services in our community, you go and have meetings with the minister and then say 'whoa, we need a heliport,' the ministry is going to think we changed our mind," Terry said. "We haven’t changed our mind; we’re putting too much on our plate.”
The amended resolution, seeking SHA support before fundraising occurs, was passed 6-1 by council.
Councillor Trent Mitchell said council doesn’t know where the SHA's position is on the city constructing a helipad, but the discussion is needed.
“For us to move forward with any fundraising, or even donations-in-kind, we need to have support from the SHA and their opinion,” he said.
The estimated cost of construction for the helipad was $400,000. Mitchell said a feasibility study will continue, but no money will be transferred at this point in the project.
On Twitter: @ClarkStork
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