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Council: medevac landings an issue in Burns Lake

Flights diverted due to weather conditions in winter
Medevac flights being redirected to nearby airports due to weather conditions in Burns Lake has resulted in patients being transported by ambulance to Smithers for a medevac flight. (Lakes District News file photo)

Burns Lake council plans to discuss patient transfer (medevac) issues once again with the provincial government.

Only this time council will talk about medevac flights being redirected to nearby airports due to weather conditions.

“During winter there have been times when medevac flights have chosen not to land at the Burns Lake airport, which has resulted in patients then having to be transported by ambulance to Smithers for a medevac flight,” explained Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach. “Council would like to ensure that, whenever possible, medevac flights land at the Burns Lake airport for safe and timely passenger travel.”

According to B.C. Emergency Health Services, Burns Lake’s Baker Airport does not have aircraft de-icing capabilities. As such, in winter months, air ambulances are often diverted to other landing facilities.

“Transport Canada rules are very specific and unwavering about wing contamination,” noted B.C. Emergency Health Services in a statement. “No aircraft is permitted to take off if there is snow or ice on the wings.”

“The safety of our patients and our paramedics is our number one priority,” the statement added.

Council will be discussing this issue with B.C. Premier John Horgan and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure during the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention, which will be held in Whistler from Sept. 10-14, 2018.

Mayor Beach will be travelling to this year’s convention along with councillors Susan Schienbein and Charlie Rensby, and chief administrative officer Sheryl Worthing.

During last year’s UBCM convention, council discussed the issue of medevac sometimes only being a one-way trip for Burns Lake residents. When a health care team determines that a patient does not require paramedic care to return home, the patient is responsible for arranging his or her own return transportation.

READ MORE: Burns Lake’s medevac issue discussed at UBCM

Earlier this year Lakes District News asked Mayor Beach what solutions came out of last year’s UBCM convention regarding this issue. Although no solutions had been offered, Mayor Beach said Northern Health discussed the options available through their Northern Health Connections service, as well as the B.C. Ambulance Service’s low-acuity bus that travels between Prince George and Burns Lake.

READ MORE: No solutions for Burns Lake yet after UBCM discussions

Last month Northern Health joined the provincial government in filling the void left by the departure of the Greyhound bus service between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Apart from the provincially-financed replacement twice-weekly service BC Bus North that started operating on June 4, Northern Health has expanded the eligibility of those who can ride its Northern Connections buses that travel between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

Now passengers with mobility challenges, passengers 60 years or older and passengers who have to travel to support immediate family members who are receiving health care treatment or services outside of their home community can use the service.

RELATED: John Rustad: long waits for medevac unacceptable

With Northern Health Connections and BC Bus North running, it means there is long-haul passenger service either east or west along Hwy. 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George every day of the week with the exception of Tuesday.

- With files from Rod Link