More on Medivacs: The Switch to the International
Back in August, the city closed down one of the runways at the City Centre Airport. It was the first step in the city’s plan to redevelop the area in to a residential space.
It was a controversial decision. Last summer, a group called Envision Edmonton put up a fight, which included a petition for a plebiscite on the closure, a court challenge and a fiery civic election campaign. In the end, those who wanted to keep the airport open lost and the airport remains slated for closure.
That didn’t mean the concerns went away. One of the main arguments that was brought up in support of keeping the airport open was that of medivac flights. The airport in the centre of the city, so the theory goes, make it easier to get patients from medivacs onto ground ambulances and to our local hospitals. To see what kind of impact that would have on medical flights, Alberta’s Health Quality Council took a look at what could be done to make the transition safer and to improve patient safety. Today, they released their report. You can see it here.
It weighs in at a hefty 70 pages and it’s a lot to go through. (Will add it to the pile on my bedside table, thus cementing myself as the holder of the nerdiest reading list ever.) Some of the 17 recommendations in the report are pretty obvious – giving priority to medivacs that are taking off or landing, or equipping ambulances with GPS to find alternate routes if need be (something I think should be done no matter what airport we’re using) Here’s a taste of some of the others:
- A Transitionary Advisory Committee made up of groups like Transport Canada, Alberta Health Services and the like to make sure the process goes smoothly. The committee should also be in close contact with the city of Edmonton, Alberta Finance, the province’s transportation department and pretty much everyone who lives west of Manitoba.
- EIA should provide a separate space for Medivacs until a dedicated facility can be put in place.
- New infrastructure along the QEII – like a dedicated off-ramp for the medivac facility (good) or a dedicated emergency lane from from the facility to the city (better). Unfortunately, if they went with the latter, I’m not sure how easily they’d be able to keep people out of that lane.
- Changing the current back-up airport in case EIA turns in to a wet mess on at a bad time. Right now, the back-up airport: Calgary. Which is pretty crazy, seeing as we have airports a-plenty in the area. Some of them will probably need a bit of upgrading, especially when it comes to landing instruments, but I think most would agree that is money well-spent.
The report notes that there are some undesirable changes when it come to using the EIA for medivacs – the farther distance from the city being one, and other things like increased air traffic and more turbulence in the area. But the recommendations included here would go a long ways to minimize the impacts. I still thinks redeveloping the airport lands is the right move for the city in the coming years, but I think Council (and the province) should take a hard look at implementing many of these ideas as soon as possible. Better now than later.