Officials have no idea when hospital helipad will be built

A helipad for Cork University Hospital will cost as much as €2m — but planning permission red tape means officials still do not know when it will be built.

Officials have no idea when hospital helipad will be built

The latest meeting of the HSE South regional health forum has been told that despite the need for the vital service, management has yet to find a long-term answer to the problem.

During an at-times heated debate on the matter, local politicians said the service gap was unacceptable for the only hospital classed as a level-one trauma centre.

However, despite accepting the need for construction, and pointing to a short-term fix, officials said a suitable long-term solution is still unclear.

Air ambulances flying patients to the hospital are allowed to land at the nearby Highfield rugby club and the grounds of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh.

This has caused problems in the past as the gates to these premises can be locked — potentially delaying access to the hospital.

As a stop-gap measure, the HSE plans to develop the Highfield facility to allow for “24-hour operational capability”. This work will “be completed within the next four to six weeks”, the health forum was told.

However, any move to build a helipad on the roof of the hospital — which is considered the best site for all types of helicopters — will cost €2m and requires planning permission and a business case review before work begins.

Despite lengthy discussion on the matter, HSE officials said they cannot provide a more specific timeline for when this service will be available.

A string of politicians at the forum raised concerns over the delays.

Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Shields said it was a disgrace that CUH had been forced to operate without a designated helipad for more than a decade because buildings have previously been built where the service was meant to be provided.

She said: “It is imperative that the HSE recognise the importance of providing a landing area for a helipad on the grounds. CUH is the largest hospital in Ireland, and currently houses 800 beds which will increase to 1,000 upon the opening of the cardiac unit.”

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