Barton Memorial Hospital helipad closes; could cause delay in trauma patient care
The Helipad at Barton Memorial Hospital closed Tuesday.
Used for trauma patients, helicopters would fly patients to Washoe Medical Center in Reno 60 miles away, a trip that takes 30 minutes.
Although trauma patients will now be air lifted from Lake Tahoe Airport, Mary Flores, emergency manager for Barton Hospital, said this adds a minimum of 40 to 45 minutes, putting trauma patients outside the “golden hour.”
“Once a patient experiences trauma we want to get them to the hospital in one hour, the most valuable hour to save their life,” Flores said.
But four years ago the California Department of Transportation, which regulates helipads, said that Barton’s landing pad does not comply with state codes, because their is not enough space. Helicopters at Barton Hospital’s helipad have had to land by coming straight down, squeezing between buildings and trees.
For the past four years the South Lake Tahoe City Council has voted to approve emergency landings at the helipad, until the hospital could build a compliant landing pad, a procedure that would involve removal of trees and according to Bill Gordon, chief executive officer for Barton Hospital, $600,000.
Brad Bennett South Lake Tahoe Chief of Police and Fire said that although there is a law that allows him to authorize emergency landings, it does not allow him to bypass Caltrans regulations. It is to provide the option to land in uncertified areas during emergencies.
Allowing Barton to operate a helipad in what is considered unsafe conditions, it makes the city liable, Bennett said.
He said that he supports Barton Hospital100 percent in their effort, but that it is really a Caltrans issue.
“I certainly understand where they are coming from, but where I am coming from is Caltrans, who is the only agency who can approve it, recommended against it,” Bennett said.
But Gordon thinks that the city should give them more time.
“Our position is that we are moving as fast as we can, working with every agency until we can get it done,” he said. “I think this is kind of a short sighted approach on the city’s part. We do appreciate what they have done, and we are trying to get this resolved.”
Flores said that between January 1 and June 30, there were 87 patients flown from Barton to Washoe. Another 15 flights carried patients, who needed surgery that could not be provided at Barton.
Bennett said that Barton Hospital is working with the necessary agencies to get approval for a helipad on top of the hospital. He hopes to start construction in the spring.
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