Celtic Air Services floats idea for EHS helicopter at Port Hawkesbury Airport

PORT HAWKESBURY: A recent social media post by Celtic Air Services Ltd. has generated some discussion in how emergency services are structured in the province.

On March 27, the Port Hawkesbury-based airport published a post on the company’s Facebook page in support of locating one of Nova Scotia’s two Emergency Health Services (EHS) helicopters in Port Hawkesbury. Both helicopters are currently based in Halifax.

“We believe strongly that locating one EHS helicopter at the Port Hawkesbury Airport and another at the Yarmouth Airport would reduce the response time for those who desperately need to get to centralized health services in Halifax,” the post read. “It only makes sense to do this, and we’re prepared to invest in the required infrastructure to support the relocation.”

Celtic Air Services president David Morgan told The Reporter the airport has been exploring ways to provide more services to the community.

“We are seeing two EHS helicopters based where all the hospitals are instead of on opposite ends of the province where they could respond quickly and move people to those hospitals,” said Morgan.

The social media post was in response to a CBC news article on a proposal to locate an EHS helicopter in Sydney.

“I said, why Sydney? Why not Port Hawkesbury? Just based on geographical distances,” said Morgan.

Morgan and Celtic Air Services vice president Damian MacInnis both have a background in aviation in Northern Canada.

“In the north, the medevac aircraft are based at the farthest reaches of the system and they operate to the central healthcare facility,” he said

He pointed out that newer aircraft are more reliable and require less maintenance, making them more suitable for use in rural areas. He believes building the infrastructure to house the helicopter would be an attainable investment.

“To install a facility capable of handling the helicopter and keeping it nice and warm and safe, it’s somewhere around a million dollars, but it’s something that isn’t really a big cost in the grand scheme of things,” said Morgan.

Morgan said the post has generated some intelligent arguments on both sides.

“People are starting to question why these assets are based in Halifax where the centres are, and there are a couple of good reasons for that we’ve been made aware of,” he said.

“One of the reasons is that they use specialized teams that actually work full-time at places like the IWK Health Centre that are trained to work on the medevac that would come for the transfer of a young child or premature infant.”

Although he is not an expert in emergency health services, Morgan said his main goal is simply to generate discussion and prompt people to ask questions about how the system is structured.

“We’re definitely not taking a shot at the people who make these decisions and design these plans,” he said. “For us this is about provoking thought and getting the attention of our municipal and provincial politicians, and that’s the role we can play at this point.”