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Fri, Jun 23, 2006

CA Hospitals Look For Ways To Restore Medevac Service

SLO, Templeton Hospitals Without Heliports Since 11/05

More than seven months after an order from the state Transportation Department closed down the helicopter pads at two California hospitals, officials are still scrambling to come with alternative sites for medevac helos to touch down on.

Inspectors for Caltrans' aeronautics division closed the landing pads at San Luis Obispos' French Hospital Medical Center, and Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, last November... after finding they failed to meet state-mandated safety criteria for object clearance distances.

That order meant critically ill or injured patients had to be driven to the hospitals, instead of being flown to them... adding precious minutes that could mean the difference between life and death.

Fortunately, no patient has died or suffered additional injury because of the loss of the landing sites, said county Emergency Services Director Tom Lynch to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. But, he added, "In those cases where it's absolutely essential, clearly it makes a difference."

Architects at the Twin Cities Hospital have begun to completely revamp the hospital's landing pad, to provide adequate clearances; meanwhile, administrators at French say they are finalizing plans to have a backup landing site designated as an "Emergency Medical Service" landing site, similar to what you'd find in remote areas where medical flights are infrequent.

The designation would allow at least some medevac choppers to land at the pad, without having to adhere as strictly to the clearance guidelines.

"The EMS site is designed to provide services for hospitals that normally do not use these facilities that require regular, repeated use," Caltrans aviation consultant Dan Gargas said. "It was never intended for someone who’s getting flights in weekly or daily."

The Tribune reports that before the pads were shut down, the hospitals saw -- on average -- about 15 medevac flights per month.



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