Rocanville council hears airport proposal

October 9, 2018 8:14 am
Kara Kinna

Rocanville town council heard a proposal for upgrades to the Moosomin airport Wednesday.

A group of individuals led by Jeff St. Onge and Dr. Schalk Van Der Merwe has been working to try to bring the need for airport improvements to the attention of local municipalities.

They say upgrades are needed to allow the Saskatchewan Air Ambulance to serve the area.

They point out that the Saskatchewan Air Ambulance, a fixed wing aircraft that can get a patient from Moosomin to Saskatoon in less than an hour, is more important than ever, but cannot work with the current gravel runway at Moosomin.

More patients are needing to be transported to Saskatoon. With the opening of the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon in the fall of 2019, all pediatric cases will be handled in Saskatoon, and the new provincial stroke protocol means all stroke patients will be sent to Saskatoon.

“This is all about the centralization of health services in the province and the importance of getting people who live in the area to Saskatoon,” St. Onge told Rocanville council.

“All the experts for children will be in Saskatoon,” added Dr. Van Der Merwe.

“Anybody from an infant to 17 years, 11 months will have to get to Saskatoon somehow. At the moment the problem to get to Saskatoon is we have to do it by road. Hopefully we won’t need the Air Ambulance very often but it’s one of those things that we can’t wait until we do need it.

“With strokes, the biggest issue is time frame. With any tissue, the longer it doesn’t get oxygen, the more tissue dies off.”

St. Onge said the air ambulance is an important part of the health care system, and the Southeast Integrated Care Centre, an important medical centre for the region, is cut off from it because of the state of Moosomin’s airport.

“We are sitting on a 40 million hospital and we can’t put the airplane, which is really an extension of the hospital, on the ground,” he told Rocanville council.

“I think the why is pretty easy to see,” St. Onge told council. “Now, it’s the how. We have talked to a number of councils, villages, towns, RMs. We want to call a meeting, put all the people in the room and close the door and say how can we pay for this, how can we make it happen?

“We need to have that meeting and it needs to be pretty quick, hopefully within a month. Dr. Van and I have come up with a proposal and throw it on the table and start the conversation.”

“There is funding from the province,” Dr. Van Der Merwe said. “It’s a matching grant and you can get a maximum of $270,000 per year. You have to have either the money in the bank or pledges.”

“There are corporate donations that are out there, but at no point can we talk to any corporation until we can show it is a community venture and there is community money,” added St. Onge.

Councillor Stan Langley asked if the organizers have spoken with Nutrien.

St. Onge said they had, and the meeting was positive, but he wants to have community funding in place before seeking corporate contributions.

Langley asked if the organizers had spoken with communities in Manitoba

Van Der Merwe said they are planning to talk to communities in Manitoba.

“We have to stand up and say there are 10,000 people here who have reduced health care,” said St. Onge.

Langley encouraged the group to move forward with their plan.

“With the presentation that you’ve done there should not be any reason that anyone should be against it,” he said.

“We are literally the only people in the south part of the province with a gravel strip,” St. Onge said.

“When you start looking at what people have here, in this area of the province, that is an absolute aberration. It’s certainly in need of upgrading.”

He suggested that if local communities contributed $30 per capita for four years and the province contributed the matching grant, the $2.5 million cost would be covered, “and that’s not even talking about a single corporate dollar.

“But I do have a list of corporate places we can go and talk to.”