25m move could solve Cairns' rescue chopper woes
THREE years after talks began to find a safer location for the Cairns Base Hospital helipad, the new local health board chairman says moving it about 25m would solve the problem.
Queensland Health and Cairns Regional Council held crisis meetings about the helipad's location on the Cairns Esplanade in mid-2009, after the strong down draft from a landing helicopter caused a woman's hand to slam into a car door in the nearby council carpark.
A decision was made at that time to close 32 council parking spaces within metres of the helipad until a safer location could be found.
Three years later, the 32 car spaces remain closed and the lost revenue to the council is more than $180,000 and growing.
Previous ideas for a new helipad site included the hospital's roof, an offshore platform or a raised landing point on the Esplanade.
But Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Board chairman Bob Norman said moving the helipad about 25m southeast of its current site would resolve the safety issue and allow the parking spaces to reopen.
"There's no advantage and several disadvantages if we were going to put it on the roof, not the least of which is the $14 million cost to put it on the roof," Mr Norman said.
Airlines had also earlier criticised putting a new helipad on the hospital's roof, saying it would raise safety issues because the rescue chopper would fly in the path of planes approaching the city's airport.
Mr Norman said building a new helipad closer to the waterfront pedestrian and bike paths would not pose a danger to the public.
"We presently stop people from walking there because of operational issues with the helicopter," he said.
Mr Norman has had informal discussions with Mayor Bob Manning about the proposal, but it would need the board's approval before a development application could be submitted to the council.
"I think it's a very suitable location," Cr Manning said.
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Setting down safely: The new local health board chairman says moving the helipad about 25m would solve the safety issues.