Medevac access to Pelly airfield a critical priority: Tredger

On Wednesday, November 25th Yukon NDP MLA for Mayo--Tatchun Jim Tredger asked the following question about improving the Pelly airfield to allow medevac flights to access Pelly Crossing:

Jim Tredger (MLA for Mayo--Tatchun): With another legislative Sitting comes another question to the Yukon Party government about upgrading the Pelly airfield to accommodate medevac flights.

Mr. Speaker, when a critically ill Pelly resident needs transport to Whitehorse, they are driven by the Pelly ambulance to Stewart Crossing. There they are transferred to another ambulance for transport to Mayo hospital. Then they are finally loaded on to a medevac to Whitehorse. There they are again transferred to one last ambulance from the airport to the hospital. The process is so time-consuming that relatives of patients often arrive in Whitehorse long before the patients themselves. The Yukon Party government’s inaction to resolve this safety issue is unacceptable.

Does the government have a plan to upgrade the Pelly Crossing airfield so that it can be accessed by medevac flights?

Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Scott Kent: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The runway surface at the Pelly Crossing aerodrome is in fair condition. There are some soft sections that occur in the spring and following moderate precipitation in the summer months. Resurfacing of the existing runway was scheduled to begin in the fall of this year, subject to a tender award — and I’ll investigate that further for the member opposite as to the schedule of that resurfacing.

Again, as the member mentioned, the local community and EMS would like to use that aerodrome as a primary medevac site. Some changes, however, would be required before that could happen and the department plans to investigate what the cost is of those additional improvements. It could require extending the runway for approximately 1,000 feet. Health and Social Services, the medevac carrier and other users are the partners we’ll work with on this issue.

I know it is an important issue to the member opposite and his constituents, so it is certainly something that department officials in our Aviation branch are looking into.

Tredger: This is an unacceptable and long-standing issue of public safety. Many years after requesting the airfield be upgraded, the fact remains that Pelly Crossing faces a critical health and safety shortfall every day that medevacs cannot operate from the village airport.

I would like to be certain that this is the only instance in Yukon where more than two ambulances are needed to transport a medevac patient to an airstrip. Are there any other Yukon communities forced to perform such an operation to get their patients to a medevac?

Minister of Community Services Currie Dixon: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

I’m not aware of any other situations that require that type of logistics, but I should note that, in exceptional circumstances, sometimes accommodation is needed to be made to accommodate unique interests. For instance, if a person is in a very remote area and they need to get into Whitehorse, sometimes there needs to be a transfer that occurs.

The specific question about whether or not this exact model is used elsewhere, I don’t know for sure, but I’m fairly certain that it is unique and, as the Minister of Highways and Public Works outlined in his response, we are working at improving the facilities at Pelly to ensure that they have access to the proper medevac services as well.