We're fortunate to live in a community that has an outstanding local hospital, but when one of us is hurt and we need specialized medical attention at one of the larger hospitals in Vancouver or Vancouver Island, and we need it fast, this is how it happens. Watch the video below.
BC Ambulance can transfer patients by ferry, but when the circumstances are critical and time-sensitive, in most cases here on Salt Spring Island, that transport is by helicopter.
Since 1998, Helijet has been contracted to provide helicopter transport for the British Columbia Emergency Health Services’ (BCEHS) Air Ambulance using air medical equipped Sikorsky S76 helicopters.
From their bases at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, BC, Prince Rupert, BC and Kamloops, BC, a dedicated team of pilots and engineers are on call to aid the need of the ambulance services for patients.
The twin-engine helicopters and their dedicated crews are on standby 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
These Sikorsky S76 are configured to accommodate up to 2 stretcher patients and 4 medical attendants. The aircraft is primarily used in patient transfers within a 100 mile radius of each air ambulance base to or from hospitals, airports and/or on-scene calls. On Salt Spring, as in other locations, the helicopter air ambulances may also land in other locations where it is safe to do so when services are needed closer to an incident. Air Ambulance helicopters are sometimes known to land on Salt Spring in the southend of the island at the Fulford Baseball field for example when that location would allow responders to more quickly and safely serve patients.
All Helijet BC Air Ambulances all now have improved night vision imaging technology installed to ensure better levels of patient and pilot safety when transports are required at night. The BC Air Ambulance helipad at Lady Minto Hospital was upgraded in 2011 to comply with new Transport Canada regulations which increased the size of the landing pad and other changes which ensure high levels of safety for patients and crew.
A couple of people on scene during this landing and take off had similar reactions watching the air ambulance. They were in awe of the machine itself certainly, but also the professionalism and calm of the medical team and crew. They also shared an understanding knowing that seeing and hearing one of these helicopters often means one of our community members is in significant distress, while also being a reminder that any one of us might need this service in an emergency.
One witness watching today's take off remarked, "Whenever I see or hear one of these helicopters, I always say a little prayer asking that everyone onboard gets to where they need to be going in a good way."
Here are some important facts for locals to know about this service on Salt Spring Island:
- The BCEHS air ambulance program responds to the needs of critical hospital transfer patients as well as emergency 9-1-1 medical calls
- Approximately 90 percent of air ambulance transports are hospital transfer patients in critical condition
- The BCEHS air ambulance program has a dedicated fleet of four air ambulance helicopters and seven air ambulance airplanes
- Helicopters are based in: Vancouver, Kamloops and Prince Rupert
- Airplanes are based in: Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Prince Rupert and Fort St. John.
- In addition to our dedicated air resources, BCEHS can call upon approximately 35 pre-qualified air carriers around the province to provide service as needed
- Annually, BCEHS responds to more than 7,000 patients requiring transportation by air ambulance
- Airplane transports account for 70 percent of all air ambulance calls; helicopters are used in 30 percent of calls.
- Autolaunch: BCEHS can simultaneously dispatch both ground ambulance(s) and an air ambulance helicopter(s) for specific emergency medical responses based on information provided from the scene by 9-1-1 callers
- Night Vision: All four BCEHS air ambulance helicopters, based in Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Kamloops, are equipped with night vision technology
- Critical Care Transport Program: Critical Care Paramedics (highest level of paramedic care, with a focus on air medical response) are deployed from aircraft bases in Prince George, Kelowna, Kamloops, Nanaimo and Vancouver