DIGBY, N.S. – The launch of two new EHS LifeFlight helicopters on December 15 had special significance for Digby General Hospital, since it meant that the emergency service can resume landings on the hospital helipad, saving critical time in patient transport.
EHS LifeFlight provides critical care transport services in Nova Scotia with fixed wing, helicopter and critical care ground transport, both hospital-to-hospital and incident scene responses.
Digby Hospital Site Manager, Hubert d'Entremont, said they were very relieved by the news.
“Obviously, we feel very, very pleased by the news of the approval of the two helicopters,” d'Entremont said. “This situation has caused a very significant impact on the time involved in the transport of patients.”
On April 1, 2016, Transport Canada, citing new certification levels, prohibited the older LifeFlight helicopter from landing at Digby General Hospital, QEII Health Sciences Centre and IWK Health Centre. While that helicopter had passed its regular transport Canada safety inspection, it did not have the current certification level now required by Transport Canada regulations to land at certain helipads.
When that order was issued, there was no allowance of time for the helicopter to be brought into compliance. Since then, the EHS LifeFlight helicopter has had to land at the Digby-Annapolis Regional Airport, and patients have been transported from the aircraft to hospital by ambulance and vice versa, adding time to the transport of critical care cases.
EHS Operations Corporate Communications Officer, Jean Moore, said the addition of the two new aircraft means that EHS LifeFlight can now resume landings directly at Digby General Hospital helipad for helicopter-based missions.
“This will equate to a time savings of approximately 10 minutes,” Moore stated. “The Digby airport will still be utilized for fixed wing missions.”
D'Entremont said the saving of 10 minutes as quoted by EHS was very “generous”.
“We know it was more like 10 minutes each way,” d'Entremont said, outlining the critical time that was involved in the unloading and loading of both staff and patients at each end of the trip to the hospital from the airport and vice versa.
While the Lifeflight service has not yet been needed in Digby since the announcement in December, d'Entremont repeated he is very relieved.
“This is very significant news for the purpose of our mission,” d'Entremont said.
EHS LifeFlight answers 700 to 800 calls a year, often when speed and critical care during the trip are vital. Now with two helicopters, LifeFlight will be able to respond more often because of minimal downtime for maintenance and scheduled repairs.
The two new helicopters – LifeFlight Tango and LifeFlight November – are Sikorsky S-76 C+ aircraft with technology exceeding any other emergency medical aircraft in the country including:
-state-of-the-art navigation and communication, including automatic voice alerts, surveillance, and real-time Environment Canada weather feed - a first in Canada
-back-up life-saving equipment, like oxygen outlets and regulators, with a back-up generator
-a night vision goggle-compatible cockpit
-climate control for the patient and crew.
EHS LifeFlight also responds to New Brunswick for requests through a mutual aid interprovincial contract and to PEI through an interprovincial contract – for hospital to hospital services only. The EHS LifeFlight base is located at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Nova Scotia has also recognized by Sikorsky for 20 years and 17,000 hours of accident-free medical services with EHS LifeFlight.