Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre unveiled its new rooftop helipad Thursday.

Sunnybrook is one of just three Toronto hospitals with the ability to receive patients from air ambulances, but its ground level landing pad is about half a kilometre from the entrance to its emergency department.

This means that patients in urgent need of care must still be transported from the landing pad to the hospital building by ambulance.

With the new helipad, patients will be wheeled down a ramp and transported to an elevator to take them down into the building where a trauma team will be waiting for them.

Greg Hulme, a pilot with the air ambulance non-profit organization Ornge, says that “an elevated helipad is inherently a lot safer from a piloting perspective, than a ground-based helipad.”

And he says the rooftop helipad will definitely help save lives.

Mayor John Tory, Sunnybrook CEO Dr Andy Smith and Ornge CEO Dr Andrew McCallum were among the dignitaries to cut the blue ribbon on the roof of the hospital’s main building. (CTV News Toronto)

Construction on the $13.5 million project began in July 2018 and funding has almost entirely come from donations, primarily from the Gelato Cup Golf Tournament and the Rudolph P. Bratty Foundation

Former trauma patient Sarah Ginn was at today’s event and recalled her own air ambulance experience when she travelled from Peterborough to Sunnybrook by Ornge helicopter in 2003.

“Both of my lungs had collapsed, my liver was torn in half and my whole brain was bleeding” she told the audience at Sunnybrook.

She credits the speed of the air ambulance and the care given to her by paramedics and hospital staff for her recovery. 

She has brain damage, she has lost her sense of smell and is now legally blind but she is an active speaker in Sunnybrook’s Party program. It teaches teens about the potentially tragic consequences of risky behaviour, including drinking and driving.

“The fact that I get to be here, just to shake their hands, any Ornge helicopter, any pilot or paramedic that’s part of that, it’s the biggest gift to me,” she said.

Air ambulances are expected to begin landing on the new helipad in November 2019.