Emergency medical helicopters now have a new temporary landing pad near Royal University Hospital (RUH) for patients being transported to that acute care centre.

The new heliport located north of RUH on the University of Saskatchewan campus, near Innovation Place, opened this week.  Funded by the Ministry of Health, the asphalt pad is a temporary location for STARS and other medevac helicopter landings at RUH until the completion of the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan (CHS). Once built, the Children’s Hospital will include a heliport on the roof for both patient transfers and emergencies, as CHS will house both adult and child emergency departments.

Helicopter lands

The STARS helicopter lands at the new temporary Royal University Hospital heliport on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon.

“Our government was pleased to invest in the development of the new Royal University Hospital heliport which is an important addition to enable even more timely care for our residents who are critically ill or injured,” said Health Minister Dustin Duncan. “The new heliport is an exciting enhancement to the provision of emergency medical services by STARS.”

This new landing area is both safer and closer to RUH than the area where STARS air ambulance helicopters had been landing to transport patients to RUH. Previously, the helicopters were landing in a field near the junction of highways 5 and 41 east of Saskatoon, where they met ground ambulance crews to complete their patient transfers to RUH. Although the helicopters still need to rendezvous with ground ambulance crews, the new heliport is much closer to the hospital than the previous landing area.

“This new pad will significantly improve service for patients getting to RUH,” said Rod MacKenzie, director of rural integration for Saskatoon Health Region. “The patients that STARS care for are usually critically injured or ill and require time-sensitive medical interventions. The newly constructed heliport will allow a safe landing zone with quick accessibility to RUH. This will serve patients well while we await construction of the new Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.”

“STARS is very pleased to have this temporary pad in place,” said Cindy Seidl, STARS’ Saskatoon base director. “This will help us improve patient care and is a really great option until a permanent helipad is built at the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.”

“This new pad is better, due to the shortened distance, both between the hospital and the landing site, and between our crews and the landing site,” said Gerry Schriemer, Chief of EMS for MD Ambulance. “Accessing the site at highways 5 and 41 was challenging, as we had to cross highway-speed traffic. The new pad is closer, safer and the next-best thing to actually landing on the hospital. It’s an excellent alternative for us.”

To get the heliport ready for service, partnerships have been formed between a large number of organizations, including the Ministry of Health, STARS air ambulance service, MD Ambulance, Saskatoon Health Region, the University of Saskatchewan and Innovation Place.

With the expert direction of GroundEffect Aerodrome Consulting, the Region has been working on the project since March. Site work consisted of clearing and preparing the area provided for the heliport by the University of Saskatchewan, excavating and compacting ground for the asphalt pad, and installation of obstruction lights and a solar windsock. The access road was upgraded to ensure ambulance crews could easily get to heliport.

David Yanciw, Saskatoon Health Region’s Heliport Manager, will be responsible for the day to day operations of the heliport which includes routine daily inspections as well as the coordination of any landing and take-off to ensure safety.

“The construction process went very well from our perspective,” said Van Isman, CEO and President of Innovation Place. “Our Client Relations team worked closely with the Region’s project manager and their general contractor, and the heliport construction was completed within the required time frame. We kept our tenants informed and they have not expressed any concerns about being temporary neighbours with the heliport.”

The University of Saskatchewan provided the land for the pad and has acted as an important partner throughout the construction process.

“My colleagues at the University of Saskatchewan and I are delighted by the outcome of the recently completed interim heliport development in the north of our campus,” said Colin Tennent, Associate Vice-President, Facilities Management Division, and University Architect. “The partnership between Saskatoon Health Region and the University of Saskatchewan continues to grow with each collaborative venture undertaken. We look forward to the completion of the Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan and to the benefits of enhanced relationships between teaching, research and clinical service.”