The HSE has been strongly criticised for the slow progress in reinstating a helipad at Cork University Hospital — Ireland’s only level 1 trauma centre.
Hospital management announced last September that it was hoped to have a helipad operational on the campus by this December. But it has emerged that preliminary design works are still “in development” and talks are still ongoing between the helipad design team and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).
Fine Gael Councillor John Buttimer said he was extremely disappointed with the pace of progress.
“It’s backwards this is going,” he said. “We have been told in recent years that this project is a priority, then that funding was approved, and that a design team has been appointed. But no explanation for the delay has been given. It’s a joke at this stage.”
His comments came after he asked HSE management for an update on the project at this week’s meeting of the HSE Southern Regional Forum.
In his reply, Dr Gerard O’Callaghan, the chief operations officer of the South/South West Hospital Group, said a full design team, including a specialist aviation consultant, has been appointed to design the landing pad. “A preliminary design, specific to the hospital setting, is in development and has included consultation with the local statutory authorities,” he said.
“This consultation has allowed the design to progress to the point of engagement with the IAA. Discussions are currently ongoing with the IAA.”
But Mr Buttimer said: “We need to go beyond talks and engagement. We need firm dates for procurement and delivery of the helipad.”
The hospital’s original helipad was decommissioned more than 13 years ago for the construction of its emergency department.
Since then, medevacs of critically-ill patients to CUH have landed at either Cork Airport or on Bishopstown GAA club fields, close to the hospital, from where patients are transported to the hospital by ambulance.
Following a detailed site evaluation process, aviation consultants selected a site in the north-eastern corner of the hospital campus, which is currently in use as a staff car park.
It is understood the site complies with strict clinical requirements and aviation regulations and is suitable to accommodate the Coast Guard’s S-92 search-and- rescue helicopters, and the Irish Air Corps’ Augusta Westland 139 and Eurocopter 135 aircraft.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved