BC Ambulance Service used the overflow parking lot between Superstore and the Washington Inn Apartments as the transfer point for the medical evacuation of two trauma patients involved in a motor vehicle collision in Courtenay on Thursday, Feb. 15. Photo by Terry Farrell

Air ambulance used parking lot for patient transfer because it was most efficient option

Lack of certification for helipad at Comox Valley Hospital not a factor in decision

BC Ambulance Service used the gravel parking lot between Superstore and the Washington Inn Apartments as a transfer area for the medical evacuation of trauma patients from Thursday’s car collision in Courtenay, because that was the most efficient option.

Fatima Siddiqui, media relations for BC Ambulance Service, said when it comes to medical emergencies, the air ambulances will land in the most practical, convenient, and closest spot available – be that an airport, highway, football field, or, as was the case Thursday, an overflow parking lot.

“Ultimately, the pilots will decide where they land,” said Siddiqui. “In this scenario, we had local first responders on the ground that … let us know that the area where we did land was safe for both helicopters to land, so that’s why that was chosen.”

Speculation that the parking lot was used because the helipad at the new North Island Hospital Comox Valley Campus is not yet certified by Transport Canada is misguided, said Siddiqui. She pointed out that when it comes to emergency medical evacuations, certified landing pads are not required.

“It [certification] actually has nothing to do with our decision about where to land. That’s just not necessarily part of the protocol, to [use hospital facilities] where we would not be taking the patient anyway.

“Last week we used a football field. We’ve landed on Highway 1, in Langley, where there are hospitals with certified landing pads. It’s very common for us to just land wherever we are told there is space for our helicopters.”

Siddiqui said the call for two air ambulances was made by crew at the scene of the crash.

“When we have an incident with multiple patients, our triage system allows us to determine what the condition of the patients are. When we have [multiple] patients in critical conditions, we tend not to double up, in terms of putting patients into the same [air] ambulance. In this instance we provided two different ambulances.”

BC Ambulance Service has a fleet of four regular, full-time air ambulances, as well as contracts with carriers throughout the province.

Both helicopters used in Thursday’s transport were from the regular fleet.

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