I see from reading recent letters in local papers that we have been requested to put pressure on the mayor and council to get the Whistler Health Centre helipad upgraded to accept single engine helicopters.
I write in response to support this request, but feel that it is necessary to give a little background of my history and the history of medi-vacs and patient care and handling as I see it here at Whistler.
I came to Whistler via the Mont Tremblant ski patrol after two seasons of patrolling in small ski resorts in southern Ontario. The first winter I was here I spent the season as a lift operator on Whistler Mountain. While being a liftie I would assist the ski patrol loading stretchers on various lifts on the mountain to help with their transportation.
The next season I was hired onto the Whistler ski patrol and spent the next five years there. In those days the closest ambulance was in Squamish, so when you went to an accident you would call the alpine office and coordinate with the dispatch on the severity of the injury and whether or not to call for an ambulance or a doctor.
Sometimes you would transport (ski/toboggan) to the bottom and walk into LíApres to see if someone could drive the injured skier to the Squamish Hospital or a Vancouver Hospital. Twice I drove an injured skier to Vancouver in his car and took the bus home. The highway then was not what it is like now. Occasionally we would get a medi-vac. Okanagan Helicopters was based here then with a single engine 206 Jet Ranger. Three times in my five years I would have flown with someone off the mountain to Vancouver. Other patrollers did the same.
As Whistler Mountain progressed, so did our town. We got doctors and a medical clinic in a couple of the ATCO trailers. If you brought an injured skier down the Olympic run or a Blackcomb run, I worked there too, you would have to go searching for the medical clinic because it would move around to various locations because the village as we now know it was still under construction.
There would be large excavation sites and hotels under construction and tucked away somewhere would be the medical clinic. One year I got sent to Snowbird Utah to see how they did things and over the years patient care and handling and evacuation got better.
We got a permanent medical clinic, X-ray, cat scan machine, great doctors and nurses and a new helipad at the clinic.
I have worked search and rescue and had to land people at the medical clinic and I have worked heli-skiing here in Whistler and at Tyax Lodge and had to fly people back to Tyax and get the only available ambulance in Goldbridge to take an injured skier to Lillooet or drive them myself.
The inability to land a single engine helicopter here at the Whistler clinic is astounding. We all have taken part in high risk, high enjoyment sport and we all drive the Sea to Sky Highway. In the past few years I have been working in remote locations in the Upper Lillooet and near Lyton on power projects and logging as an assistant avalanche forecaster and road building. If there were an industrial accident here or an avalanche a helicopter would respond. In all of those jobs I have had to cut down a few trees or get a faller to do it to make helicopter landing sites.
Lately the talk around town is about the heliport at the clinic and the decision not to cut down the trees on the approach to the helipad ó this decision really let the air out of the last councilís balloon.
A few months ago I walked around the heliport and checked out the pedestrian control gate on Lorimer Road. There is a human traffic control sign on this gate. The sign has been reproduced backwards and upside down. I called the Vancouver office and reported this and was told an expert consultant would address the issue. Meanwhile the same sign remains.
I am shocked and disgusted with this political game being played with human lives over a few trees. Let a contractor cut the trees plant some deciduous trees to mark the route and get the job done.
We live in an area of many natural hazards like landslides and wildfire and multi incident multi trauma chances are likely.
Just getter done.