O.K. given to emergency use of helipad | TahoeDailyTribune.com

O.K. given to emergency use of helipad

Robert Stern

South Lake Tahoe City Council has authorized Barton Memorial Hospital to use its helipad in emergency situations until the end of September. The helipad was shut down Oct. 31, because it did not meet California Department of Transportation standards.

Steve Sikora, an emergency room physician at Barton, said the time saved by having access to its helipad could mean the difference between life and death, and in other cases additional transportation time could impact quality of life for patients suffering from head trauma or heart attack.

“It may result in a reduced quality of life,” he said.

Barton officials hope to have a new compliant helipad, which would be on the roof of the hospital, completed by the end of September.

Bill Gordon, chief executive officer of Barton, estimated that if the city approves use of the helipad, about 40 percent of all care-flighted patients would use the helipad. Gordon is asking that the head physician on duty be allowed to make the decision depending on the severity of each case.

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 that have spanned the last four years and ended last October.

Gordon, however, said that funding for a new helipad is secure and approval by necessary agencies is imminent.

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 since the helipad’s closure, Gordon said.

The current helipad falls short of space requirements, and some air ambulance companies will not land at Barton. Careflight, which has historically flown the majority of patients out of Barton, leaves the decision up to its pilots.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.