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LCQ16: Noise nuisance caused by helicopter rescue service

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (November 24):


     I have received complaints from some Eastern District residents that the residents in the district suffer from noise nuisance because the helicopter rescue service is mainly carried out at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital (PYNEH).  They have pointed out that helipads are at present provided at PYNEH and Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH) for emergency casualty evacuation.  According to the view of the Government Flying Service (GFS), landing at TMH is restricted due to safety considerations, hence under normal circumstances, emergency patients and casualties are mainly transferred to PYNEH which provides 24-hour emergency services; yet, the noise generated by such rescue helicopters is not subject to regulation, and while the residents understand the importance of rescue operations and have no intention of raising objection, they hope that the authorities will help them solve the noise problem.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of landings made by rescue helicopters at various public hospitals in the past five years;

(b) apart from the measures mentioned by GFS and the Civil Aviation Department to members of the Eastern District Council on March 18 this year, what other specific measures the authorities have to mitigate the aforesaid noise problem in Eastern District, and whether they will allocate additional resources to assist residents in installing noise mitigation facilities; and whether they know if the Hospital Authority (HA) will divert such service to other hospitals in the long run; and

(c) given that there are over 20 days in a year on which helicopter operations at PYNEH are precluded by adverse weather conditions, making it impossible to carry out emergency casualty evacuation within the shortest possible time, whether it knows if HA will consider constructing additional helipads at suitable public hospitals throughout Hong Kong; if HA will, when the helipads will be constructed; if not, of the reasons for that?



     Among all public hospitals under the Hospital Authority (HA), the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital (PYNEH) and Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH) are provided with helipad facilities.  The Government Flying Service (GFS) will adopt various means to transfer casualties to hospitals according to their medical conditions.  Under the Emergency Casualty Evacuation and Rescue Service Arrangement drawn up by GFS and HA, "Type A+" casualties (i.e. patients with life-threatening conditions) will be transferred to hospital by helicopter to ensure that they could be sent to the Accident and Emergency Department for treatment as soon as possible.  "Type A" casualties (i.e. patients with emergency medical conditions other than life-threatening conditions) and "Type B" casualties (patients with lesser emergency) will be first conveyed to GFS's Wan Chai heliport, or depending on weather conditions, to its Headquarters at the Hong Kong International Airport, before being transferred by ambulance to a hospital nearby for treatment.

(a)  The number of landings made by rescue helicopters at the two public hospitals with helipad in the past five years is set out in Annex.

(b) and (c)  To reduce the noise impact caused by helicopter landing at hospital to residents in the vicinity, GFS, having consulted the Civil Aviation Department (CAD), has adopted flight paths away from residential areas as far as possible, and taken noise mitigation measures including the use of low noise helicopters as well as slowing down the rotor speed of helicopters to reduce the noise level during the transfer of casualties at helipad.

     In providing a helipad, apart from compliance of design standards and safety requirements, the safety of the flight paths would also need to be taken into consideration.  At present, since there are many high-rise buildings in the vicinity of most public hospitals with Accident and Emergency Departments, suitable and safe flight paths for helicopters may not be available.  In addition, the existing hospital blocks have not been designed to cater for the landing by helicopters.  Therefore the structure of the buildings is not capable of supporting the load of a helicopter and a helipad.  There exist difficulties in providing a helipad on the roofs of these existing hospital blocks.  Also, landing of helicopters may cause vibration to the hospital blocks and affect the medical equipment in the building.  

     In planning for new acute hospital, we will consider providing helipad facilities at the hospital depending on the need and circumstances.  The provision of helipad facilities needs to be technically feasible and meets the relevant safety standards and statutory requirements.  For instance, we may need to conduct environmental study or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in accordance with the EIA Ordinance, in order to minimise the environmental impact of the facilities to nearby residential dwellings.  HA will maintain communication with the relevant departments, including GFS and CAD, in considering the provision of helipad facilities.

Ends/Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Issued at HKT 16:06


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