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FNHA’s Heliport Project Brings Emergency Air Access to 11 First Nations Communities

The First Nations Health Authority partnered with Helicopters Without Borders to increase the number of reliable air access points in First Nations communities across BC. The first phase of this initiative will bring essential air emergency and healthcare services to 11 remote communities.

Client

First Nations Health Authority

Location

Various Remote Locations, BC

Project Scale

Confidential

Reforming First Nations Healthcare

The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is the first and only provincial health authority dedicated to reforming the way healthcare is delivered to First Nations people in British Columbia.

Across the province there are more than 200 First Nations communities, and more than 55 of them are in remote or isolated locations. Many of the communities can only be accessed by boat or air, making travel and the transportation of goods and services difficult — especially during the winter.

When a medical emergency or natural disaster occurs, it can be challenging to ensure community members get the care, medications and supplies they need. Weather conditions, visibility and time of year can affect a helicopter’s ability to land safely – without heliports this is even more difficult. When a pilot can’t land, they’re forced to return to the nearest city, leaving sick or injured community members without medical attention.

FNHA partnered with Helicopters Without Borders (HWB) to make healthcare more accessible for these remote communities by developing a plan to assess and construct helicopter landing plates – or heliports. Providing helicopter pilots with a safe place to land, enables communities to receive more reliable, and accessible healthcare, supplies and evacuation services in emergency situations.

Navigating Project Challenges and Limitations

The FNHA engaged our Project Management and Infrastructure Advisory teams to support its vision for this project.

The infrastructure available to accept air emergency or healthcare services in remote First Nations communities takes on many forms – like heliports and open fields. FNHA and our project managers set out to inventory the existing infrastructure in these communities, so our teams could clearly assess, identify and understand the unique project needs of each First Nation.

Building a heliport is highly technical and expensive, especially in remote locations. The project team identified several communities to include as part of its initial project plan and worked with our team to determine a strategy to spend its available budget efficiently.

Throughout the course of this project, our team will support the FNHA on project calls and in-person visits, provide project management guidance to First Nations communities and deliver interim or permanent solutions to ensure proper healthcare amenities are accessible and available via air transport.

By the end of this initial project phase, nine communities will have established new interim heliports, renovations will be completed to one existing heliport and a new, high-tech heliport will be delivered to another community, establishing air ambulance service routes and air access to 11 communities at any time of day – or night.

As the FNHA moves forward with its vision to improve healthcare delivery to remote First Nations communities, it will use examples of the infrastructure inventory research, delivery model as well as local First Nations skills and knowledge to support future funding applications.

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