The new surgical tower proposed for University Hospital of Northern B.C. will create the region’s first cardiac unit and expanded mental health/addictions treatment and surgical capacity.
But the $600-700 million project will not include a rooftop hospital helipad that would allow the direct transfer of medivac patients brought from other healthcare facilities or accident scenes.
“We are going to be assessing the site for a helipad and looking at the best place to put one, but it’s not part of this project,” said Steve Raper, vice-president of communications and public affairs for the Northern Health Authority. “It’s not part of this current business case for the tower at this point.”
Prince George is the only major city in B.C. which lacks a facility to land helicopters at its hospital.
“It’s not part of the business case for the surgical tower but that doesn’t mean it’s not a priority for us to assess as to where we might be able to do this, whether on the site or in proximal location to the site,” said Raper. “We are going to be going through the process of looking at where we can put one, both temporary and potentially permanent."
Hospitals in Vancouver, New Westminster, Campbell River, Comox Valley, Kelowna and Kamloops all have rooftop helipads – among 24 hospitals in the province that have the ability to land helicopters on-site, day or night.
The helipad at the new surgical tower that opened in March at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops allowed for the closure of an existing helipad adjacent to the main hospital building.
The new surgical tower in Prince George will be built opposite the main building at UHNBC on the Edmonton Street property now occupied by the Northern Interior Health Unit. Demolition of that building will begin once construction of a five-storey hospital parking lot on Lethbridge Street is completed, sometime in the early summer of 2025.
The tower will add 99 new beds, expanding bed capacity to 315 for UHNBC, the only referring hospital in the northern half of the province.
The existing facility opened in 1958 as Prince George Regional Hospital and it was expanded in 1978 and 2003. An existing helipad in the northeast parking lot was closed when the hospital built over that site during the 2003 expansion to allow for construction of a new emergency ward.
One potential future helipad site is the existing BCEHS ambulance station near the hospital on 15th Avenue. In November, BCEHS announced the province will fund a $14.7 million project to build a multi-purpose ambulance facility in the former Greyhound bus terminal on Vancouver Street.