It was a quiet but momentous day at Melfort Hospital with city councillors and members from the northeast health community coming together to break ground on the new helipad site on the east side of the hospital complex.
Years of fundraising efforts came to fruition on July 29 with over $500,000 dedicated towards the project and the first construction planning meeting happening the next day on July 30.
The new heliport will reduce transfer times and allow Stars Air Ambulance crews direct access to the Melfort Hospital emergency room and staff. In 2019, Stars landed in Melfort 25 times with ground transportation needed from the Melfort Airport to the Melfort Hospital and back if the patient needed air transport to Saskatoon.
The new helipad will save upwards of 50 minutes of ground transportation time, especially now that patients can be transported from Melfort directly to Saskatoon’s Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, says Rod Gantefoer, chairman of the Melfort helipad fundraising committee.
Gantefoer has been working with Stars Air Ambulance since before his retirement from provincial politics in 2011. As a representative of the area for 16 years as an MLA and now as head of the fundraising committee, he was happy to see this day finally come.
“The whole premise of Stars is to see high quality, critically trained people as quickly as possible to the scene of an accident and get those (patients) back to the care that they need. Saskatchewan is a huge area with a very small population outside the big centers so this is an important project.”
The helipad will benefit the entire Melfort area, says Gantefoer, so it was great to see the full amount of the fundraising has come from donations both within the City of Melfort as well as the surrounding area.
Construction is being headed by the City of Melfort with Catterall & Wright Consulting Engineers being hired for the project, says Brent Lutz, Director of Development, Planning, and Community Relations for the City of Melfort. Several local tradespeople will also be contributing around $70,000 to the project by way of gifts in kind for services and discounts rates on service, says Lutz.
Working within the realms of COVID-19 next to a healthcare facility, construction will also take place as safely as possible, says Lutz. Construction will see landscaping done to raise the pad area to meet the level of the hospital and a new entryway constructed to lead into the hospital emergency area. Infection control and dust and fume control will be a major part of the construction plan, says Lutz.
Trees will also have to be cut down to prepare for the site but Lutz says beautifying the area within the limits of helicopter safety is also going to be part of the helipad project.
When construction is done, Lutz says he hopes they will be able to celebrate the completion of the project and all the donors that contributed to the helipad with a ribbon-cutting but that, of course, will depend on COVID restrictions in the province.