Yesterday was the grand opening of the new helipad at the Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current, and while circumstances didn't allow for STARS to bring a helicopter, a number of people with ties to the pad shared their feelings about it.

The pad has been operational since early January and had its first landing on January 28. From late in 2017 until then, STARS had been picking up patients at the Swift Current Airport, which is 10 kilometres away.

Dr. Kevin Wasko with the Saskatchewan Health Authority said taking that ambulance ride from the hospital to the airport makes a big difference.

"When we need to send somebody out to tertiary centres - Regina or Saskatoon - people are in very grave conditions. We need them to be out immediately and get, as soon as possible, to a place where they can get the care they really need," he said. "What we had been doing due to transport regulations was having to take patients out by ambulance to the airport, and then STARS meeting us, which just makes us lose precious moments that we need. So the fact that STARS can come directly to the hospital, roll right into our ambulance bay, and be able to help us stabilize the patient that much sooner means so much in those times when the moments really do matter."

Time is one thing, but having the pad adjacent the hospital on the east helps with the stress for a patient as well.

"Obviously if a patient's in a state that requires them to be transferred out to tertiary, they're not in a state that would be amenable to multiple transfers, which is essentially what was happening," Wasko explained. "They would get loaded up into an ambulance, driven down the road, unloaded, loaded into the helicopter. This way they're rolled out the door into the helicopter into the helicopter and they take off. So all of those transfers mean time, but they also mean disruption for the patient."

The original landing pad was on the east side of the hospital, but with development nearby its northwestern location in Swift Current, the pad didn't meet federal guidelines. A temporary pad was set up for a while on the west side of the hospital, before the move to the airport.

helipad grand opening feb8 2

Brittany Wagner - a registered nurse in the critical care unit - speaking, then, right to left: Greg Ottenbreit, Everett Hindley, Kevin Wasko, Denis Perrault, Cindy Siedl, and Bonnie Fortin

Due to poor weather conditions and one STARS helicopter being in use yesterday, they weren't able to send a chopper to Swift for the grand opening.

But that didn't mean people weren't able to learn more about an air transfer.

Bonnie Fortin spoke about her experience with STARS, when she was picked up a few years back due to complications with a cesarean section.

A number of officials also spoke yesterday in the lobby about how they see the air ambulance service's importance.

The province's minister for rural and remote health, Greg Ottenbreit:

Wasko, who is a physician executive for integrated rural health:

Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault:

Swift Current MLA Everett Hindley:

and STARS Director of Provincial Operations Cindy Siedl:

In 2018 there were 39 STARS landings in Swift Current. The new helipad cost around $342,000, subject to completion costs.

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