The helicopter landing pad at Mater Dei Hospital will soon be transferred to a new area on the roof of the Emergency Department, to make way for the Life Sciences complex.

The Health Ministry confirmed that the Foundation for Medical Services had applied to relocate the helipad from its current location close to the hospital's mortuary, to the roof of the Accident and Emergency Department block.

The application before the Malta Environment and Planning Authority seeks a permit to build a helipad and ancillary services.

The spokesman told The Sunday Times that the helipad would be relocated to make way for the Life Sciences complex, which is to be built close to the hospital.

He said a building forming part of the Life Sciences complex would lie just beneath the helicopter approach and within the landing and take-off flight paths, so it was decided to seek an alternative location for the helipad.

Using the roof of the Accident and Emergency Department block would not only provide safer landing and take-off options in practically all weather conditions, but lead to a more efficient transfer of patients to the Accident and Emergency Department, he added.

He pointed out that a patient on a stretcher would be placed into a lift that travels directly down to the department, eliminating the transfer of patients from the existing helipad by ambulance.

However, replying to a parliamentary question in 2008, then Social Policy Minister responsible for health, John Dalli, had said the original intention had always been for the helipad to be built on the hospital roof but that plans were dropped in the best interests of patient safety and because it was cheaper.

In fact, a year earlier, Parliamentary Secretary Mario Galea said the helipad had been built at ground level on the request of pilots who feared wind currents from the nearby valley in rough weather.

He was answering to Labour's claims government was forced to accept the helipad as it is because the roof of the emergency department had not been reinforced during construction.

The Health Ministry was asked to explain this change of position but no reply was forthcoming by the time we went to print.

Since 1999, more than 630 patients were transferred by the Armed Forces of Malta to St Luke's and Mater Dei Hospital. This included medical evacuation and the transfer of patients from the Gozo General Hospital.

More stories from The Sunday Times in the News section.

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