I have worked as a ski patroller and a paramedic for 27 years in this valley. I have also worked with Whistler Search and Rescue for the past 15 years.
During my career I have had the privilege of working with a dedicated team that has saved countless lives due to the protocols and ability to get patients off the mountain to the clinic in a safe and efficient manner.
Since the new clinic pad was built in 1994 we achieved a benchmark of having a patient off the ski hill into the clinic in less than 30 minutes. From 1989 to 1994 we flew patients to the back of the present municipal hall, the clinic was in the basement.
Prior to that we flew them to the present driving range at the Whistler Golf Course where the clinic was an Atco trailer. During this period of time there has never been an accident involving a helicopter landing at these various locations.
During the 2010 Olympics that all changed, Transport Canada required that the helipad be upgraded and instructed Vancouver Coastal Health to comply with its standards. During my 27 year career we have used mostly single engine helicopters, and over the years they have become much more powerful and reliable. I personally would rather be flying in the mountain environment in a powerful single engine machine than a twin-engine machine.
The present bureaucratic battle between Transport Canada and the VCH is jeopardizing people's lives. There has already been an incident this year where two patients were flown to the municipal heliport and a decision to take one patient from there to Vancouver general hospital via a BCAS Medivac Helicopter had to be made. They made the right decision, but who knows what will happen the next time this occurs.
Twin-engine helicopters are the only ones that will be allowed to land at the clinic if and when it is ever approved. There is only one twin-engine machine in this area and it is not always available. As a rescuer and paramedic I would rather be in the best single engine machine for the task.
It's time that all parties involved come to a compromise and do what is best for the person needing the (expedited) transport to a medical facility. I encourage all residents and guests of this community to write to local government, the Vancouver Health Authority, and Transport Canada and complain about the lack of compassion, understanding, and funds to rectify the dismal situation we are presently in. It could be you, your child or a co-worker who is not properly cared for because of bureaucratic decisions made by people pushing paper and not really getting the big picture!
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