New helipad provides added safety benefits for West End

Members of all Western Manitoulin communities, along with Ornge air ambulance helicopter services, local and provincial dignitaries and representatives of Sheshegwaning First Nation were on hand for the official opening of the new helipad in Sheshegwaning last week.

SHESHEGWANING—The new helipad that has been completed and officially opened in Sheshegwaning First Nation will provide quicker response times in emergency situations for Western Manitoulin residents, with access to the services of the ORNGE air ambulance helicopter services.

Albert Cada, a Sheshegwaning band councillor, told a large gathering at the official opening of the helipad last Thursday, “I would like to thank all of you for coming to the opening of this new helipad in Sheshegwaning. We are very happy to accommodate this service for our Western Manitoulin communities and First Nations. It will help speed up emergency response when accidents or incidents occur and we have to get someone to the hospital very quickly.”

Sheshegwaning elder Loretta Roy had opened the ceremony with a prayer noting, “this service will be good for Western Manitoulin-Meldrum  Bay, Silver Water, Sheshegwaning, Zhiibaahaasing and Evansville areas. We are very excited this helipad is in place.”

“I would also like everyone to take part in a moment of silence for the people out west who have been devastated by the large forest fires in Alberta,” said Ms. Roy.

Councillor Cada noted there were several special guests in attendance at the opening, including the Deputy Chief of the Union of Ontario Indians Glen Hare, Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes, and people on the local Sheshegwaning first response team, which has been in place for three years. “The first response team will be the ones to turn on the lights every day. The service will be open 24/7.”

“I bring regrets from (Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha) who could not be here today on this very important day,” stated Carol Hughes. “First, I would like to thank the first responders who provide the initials services in an emergency, and especially to all those people who had the vision of having a helipad here, and the community who worked hard to make this a reality.”

On behalf of herself and Mr. Mantha, Ms. Hughes presented a certificate to Councillor Cada congratulating Sheshegwaning and all those involved in getting the helipad locally for all their work and efforts. 

The ambulance crew and paramedics with Ornge air ambulance helicopter services get ready to land their helicopter at the new helipad located in Sheshegwaning First Nation. The helipad was officially opened in a ceremony held in the community on Thursday of last week.
The ambulance crew and paramedics with Ornge air ambulance helicopter services get ready to land their helicopter at the new helipad located in Sheshegwaning First Nation. The helipad was officially opened in a ceremony held in the community on Thursday of last week.

“We are proud and pleased to have you here for this official opening ceremony,” said Councillor Cada.

Chief Hare said, “having this helipad in the local community to serve the residents of Manitoulin Island is awesome.”

“There should be more times that we put politics aside, and human lives always come first,” said Chief Hare. “There have been many emergency situations in the area over the years, some tragic, and this helipad and the services that come with it will help a lot. It will ease the minds of our elders and residents. I would like to congratulate everyone who has been a part of making this (helipad) a reality.”

Councillor Cada thanked some of the local representatives from Western Manitoulin communities who were on hand for the ceremonies.

Darrell Duval, base manager for Ornge Sudbury and Moosonee  said, “it is an honour for Ornge to be involved in this project. It takes a lot of work and effort to have a helipad established in a community. This will help all residents of Western Manitoulin, those involved in an emergency situation get to the hospital quicker.”

It was pointed out that Rob Smith, formerly of Ornge (now with the Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board), had originally been in contact with Tony Jocko, a former operations manager for Ornge and now a health policy analysis for the Union of Ontario Indians about setting up a helipad in Sheshegwaning. Once this idea was spearheaded they worked with Frank Cada, director of plant and operations with Sheshegwaning and received the support and help of band council and administration in getting this in place.

Murray Duncanson of Silver Water bade “congratulations to the Sheshegwaning First Nation for their efforts and work in getting this helipad here. I have heard nothing but excellent reports concerning the local first response team and this service will now be further enhanced with this helipad and Ornge. It will benefit all residents of western Manitoulin.”

Elaine Bradley, a Meldrum Bay resident, said, “I’ve been a recipient of the first response team work. It is excellent. We are grateful to have the first response team here and now the helipad and the Ornge employees.”

Tony Jocko told the gathering, “there have been several tragedies on the West End over the years. When Rob  (Smith) and I started discussion having Orgne services on the Island we agreed Sheshegwaning was a perfect spot to deploy the helipad.”

Mr. Jocko noted he had also worked with Frank Cada and Dennis Blackburn, the Sheshegwaning band manager, “on this very much needed service for Western Manitoulin. It is something that we all hope no one ever has to use, but when it is needed it will be a benefit and time saving.”

“The first response team can start the lifesaving procedures and can make a difference, and with Ornge on the scene, patients will  be transferred to the hospital in short time,” said Mr. Jocko.

Crystal Sagon a Zhiibaahaasing First Nation councillor congratulated “Sheshegwaning for this beautiful thing you have done. This helipad and the services to be provided by Ornge are will help a lot of people, and be great for all communities on Western Manitoulin. Miigwetch.”

“We are pleased to be here today to share in on this important occasion,” said Derek Graham, chief executive officer of the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC).  “Providing health care close to home, especially services like this is very important. This is a wonderful addition and we definitely share in this celebration.”

The cement pad area of the helipad is about 30 feet by 30 feet in size, with the actual safety area covering an area of about 10 feet.  UCCMM provided technical services for the project.