Medical Center heliport opens

Nearly four hours after The Medical Center of Central Georgia’s heliport officially opened Monday at noon, the hospital received its first patient on the roof of the hospital’s surgery center.

A helicopter from Dorminy Medical Center in Fitzgerald landed at 3:45 p.m. Monday, said Lee Oliver, director of emergency services for the Medical Center.

Nine hours later, a Medical Center patient was airlifted from the 48-by-48 red square on the rooftop to Doctor’s Hospital in Augusta at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. Both flights landed and took off smoothly, he said.

“We’re glad it was a pretty day that we could get the flights in and out and shave that time off for folks that would have had to land at the health department on Emery Highway,” Oliver said.

Although the heliport was completed shortly after Christmas, the facility went through a series of state and federal inspections before it could be cleared for landing and takeoff.

After a final inspection about 11 days ago, the hospital answered the last inquiry Sunday night, Oliver said.

Five medical flight services operate out of multiple locations in Georgia, he said.

The Medical Center has the only Level-1 Trauma Center in the central part of the state.

Georgia has similar centers at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and Memorial Hospital in Savannah, Oliver said.

The new equipment that was paid for with a $600,000 grant from Georgia’s Trauma Commission has passed inspection, but bad weather can temporarily knock it out of commission.

Tuesday morning’s strong winds would have made it impossible for choppers to land in Macon.

The decision to fly is made by the flight services that must check weather at their base, the accident scene or other hospital and at the Medical Center, Oliver said.

In trauma cases, the pilot works with the nurse and paramedic on board to determine the severity of the injuries and which hospital can best meet the need.

The pilot is in continuous communication with the base to check weather conditions.

In the case of a hospital transfer, the medical facilities coordinate the flights when weather permits, Oliver said.

The orange windsock atop the building gives pilots an indication of wind direction and speed.

Oliver sees the heliport as a lifesaving addition to the hospital.

“It really allows us to extend our ability to serve patients into south Georgia,” he said.

“We’ll continue to tweak things out if we see opportunities, but now we’re ready to receive patients and getting ready for the next flight.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.