City could reopen Barton helipad
Barton Memorial Hospital’s helipad could be reopened, pending City Council approval. The council will consider the issue at its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the City Council Chambers.
Officials at Barton are hoping the South Lake Tahoe City Council will allow the use of the helipad, which was shut down Oct. 31, until construction of a one in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration and California Department of Transportation standards.
Barton officials hope to have a helipad, which would be on the roof of the hospital, completed by September.
By approving the Barton Helipad for temporary use, the city opens itself up to legal action in the event of an accident. No accidents, however, have occurred since the helipad opened 30 years ago, said Bill Gordon, chief executive officer of Barton.
Gordon estimated if the city approves use of the helipad about 40 percent of all patients needing emergency air service would use it. Gordon is asking that the head physician on duty be allowed to make the decision depending on severity of each case.
Since the helipad was closed down, air ambulances have had to pick patients up at the Lake Tahoe Airport, which causes delays. Barton officials are concerned delays could cause loss of life in critical situations, but no such deaths have occurred, Gordon said.
“We have been lucky,” he said. “I think it is the best way of putting it. I know there has not been a case where a patient has lost their life as a result of the delay.”
The current helipad falls short of space requirements, and some air ambulance companies will not land at Barton. Care Flight, which has historically flown the majority of patients out of Barton, leaves the decision up to its pilots.
Police and Fire Chief Brad Bennett continues to recommend against city approval for the site even as a temporary landing zone, according to city documents.
This is not the first time Barton has asked for an extension with the promise of a new compliant helipad. The City Council has given Barton three extensions which have spanned the last four years and ended last October.
The new helipad, however, could meet acceptable standards.
The crux of the new helipad lies in the removal and trimming of existing trees. Not all of these trees belong to Barton, so agreements with neighboring Tahoe Valley Campground, need to be made.
The proposed helipad would sit on top of the hospital. It would cost between $550,000 and $600,000 and be paid for with hospital funds.
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