Fifteen minutes may not seem like a long time, but it can make the difference between life and death for trauma patients.
The Medical Center of Central Georgia’s new heliport will buy trauma doctors more time by delivering severely injured patients directly to the hospital’s rooftop. Currently, medical helicopters have to land somewhere near downtown to meet an ambulance that takes patients to the hospital.
“The elevator that takes them down literally drops the patient off about 75 to 80 feet from the emergency department,” said Lee Oliver, director of emergency services for the hospital.
A $600,000 grant from Georgia’s Trauma Commission paid for the 48-feet-by-48-feet heliport that can support 12,000 pounds on the roof of the surgery center.
Although the red landing pad with its large white cross is not visible from the ground, a bright orange windsock can be seen from its post atop the elevator penthouse.
Crews will wait in that round building and watch on a video monitor as emergency helicopters land. Once the aircraft powers down they will go outside and wheel the patient to the elevator.
Pilots will access weather conditions on the way in and can choose a contingency landing spot in the event of bad weather conditions.
Employees armed with cell-phone cameras got a sneak preview Wednesday before Thursday afternoon’s official ribbon cutting.
The state fire marshal is due to inspect the heliport next week before Federal Aviation Administration officials do the same the following week to clear the pad for operation, Oliver said.
“I think we’ll see an increase in the number of flights that come in,” Oliver said.
“We average now over 100 patients a year that are flown in.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.