New heliport at Portage la Prairie hospital will save time for patients, paramedics, STARS says

By | January 30, 2019

Patients who need to be transported by air from the Portage la Prairie hospital to Winnipeg will now spend less time in a ground ambulance, thanks to a new heliport.

The heliport in the southern Manitoba city, about 80 kilometres west of Winnipeg, has officially opened next to Portage la Prairie’s hospital.

The non-profit air ambulance service, which has been operating in Manitoba since 2012, took its first patient from the heliport on Tuesday. 

Previously, a ground ambulance had to load a patient at the Portage la Prairie hospital and drive them to the airport in Southport, six kilometres to the south, to meet the helicopter. 

“We anticipate the heliport will save roughly 30 minutes per mission,” said Chad Saxon, a spokesperson for STARS.

“It will also reduce the amount of transfers from one stretcher to another for the critically ill and injured patients that we transport.”

Pam Pugh, who lives on a farm outside Portage la Prairie, has called for the heliport — one of many projects she’s advocated for — for the last seven years. 

Pugh said she wanted to see the heliport become a reality after two family members became ill and needed to be taken to Winnipeg. 

“To me [landing at the Southport airport] was more expensive than anything,” said Pugh. “It is quicker for them and you’re saving people’s lives by getting them from the [Portage la Prairie] hospital, and letting the helicopter land at the hospital.”  

She convinced the Portage and District Hospital Foundation and others in the community to help raise the money for the new heliport, through projects like the hospital foundation’s lottery.

“Without everybody’s help, this project would have never came about,” she said. “It is so amazing. It’s so overwhelming.”

Saxon said the heliport was approved for use on Jan. 18, after a test flight and an inspection by Transport Canada.

He said STARS flew to 35 calls in Portage la Prairie in 2018. 

“This is tremendous news for patients and we congratulate everyone involved in Portage la Prairie for their vision and hard work to make the heliport a reality,” Saxon said. 

Pugh said with the heliport now operational, she will turn her focus to other projects in the community — namely improvements to the intersection of highways 1 and 16 west of the city, where a number of serious crashes have taken place in recent years. 

“I just wish our loved ones that are up in heaven right now could have seen this,” said Pugh. “It’s for them. They were wanting to see this.”