Tuesday 16 July 2019

Coast Guard can't land its helicopters on National Children's Hospital roof

The Coastguard helicopter (Stock picture)
The Coastguard helicopter (Stock picture)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Irish Coast Guard helicopters will not be able to land on the elevated helipad at the new national children's hospital.

The Coast Guard provides reserve support to the Air Corps, which is the primary provider of helicopter services to the National Ambulance Service.

Health Minister Simon Harris confirmed the Air Corps AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters can land on a raised landing site or the roof of a building which is designed and certified for such operations.

But the Irish Coast Guard provides reserve support to the National Ambulance Service when required through its Sikorsky S-92 search and rescue fleet.

"The Sikorsky S-92 helicopters are not licensed to land on helipads," Mr Harris confirmed.

It means that for access to the St James's campus, they will land in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, "from which patients will be transferred in an ambulance by road, as is current practice".

Mr Harris, who was replying to Irish Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, said: "The majority of patient transfers to the existing three Dublin children's hospitals are completed by road.

"There will be an elevated helipad at the new children's hospital, which will have direct and rapid access to the critical care, theatre and emergency departments within the hospital.

"This enhanced direct and rapid access will improve clinical outcomes for the sickest children and young people."

He said the helipad had been designed in close consultation with the National Ambulance Service Aeromedical Liaison Service, who is responsible for providing helicopter services to hospitals.

The National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, responsible for the building, also consulted with the Irish Aviation Authority and the Air Corps, which is the primary provider of paediatric helicopter services to the National Ambulance Service.

It "advised that, when reviewing the alternatives with the Irish Aviation Authority and the Air Corps, they recommended against a ground helipad due to the constrained flight paths and obstacle clearance".

"Use of elevated landing sites on the roof of hospitals is widespread in the UK and Europe and many of the recently completed paediatric hospitals have elevated helipads," it said.

Meanwhile, the 60-bed modular unit at University Hospital Limerick, which it was feared would be delayed due to the construction cost overrun at the €1.4bn children's hospital, is to go ahead.

Fine Gael Senator Kieran O'Donnell said the HSE "has instructed the hospital group to proceed with the development and to get the excavation works under way straight away".

The hospital is the most overcrowded in the country, with 70 patients on trolleys on Wednesday.

The extra beds will not be ready on time for next winter and will not be ready until mid-2020.

Irish Independent

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