New helipad at hospital helps save time and lives

New helipad at hospital helps save time and lives by M. Jill Karolevitz Concrete has little to do with medical services � unless it�s used as a helipad for emergency medi-flights to and from a hospital.

Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital has recently completed its new helipad, located adjacent to the hospital ER entrance at the corner of Main and Walker streets. And although it consists of what looks to be a simple 40' x 40' slab of concrete surrounded by lights, its benefits far outweigh its appearance.

�Time saving is its greatest benefit,� said John Paulson, CEO of Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Campus.

Instead of bringing patients into the hospital by ambulance for evaluation and stabilization, then transporting them to the Vermillion Airport to wait for a helicopter, trauma victims are now spared the extra time, as emergency flights � bringing critical care personnel, equipment and supplies � can now land right at Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital.

�The system did work � I�m not suggesting that there was a problem � but the time factor is now so much better,� Paulson

said. �In many cases, time can be of the essence for the patient who needs critical care. Having the helipad here saves up to 20 minutes for each trip we had to make to the airport. Now, emergency medical teams have that much of a head start for transport to hospitals in Sioux Falls or Sioux City if a patient needs services beyond what is available here at Vermillion.�

�We really appreciate how quickly the helicopter service can now be obtained to assist us in stabilizing and caring for patients who need to be transferred to a regional medical center,� added Dr. William Dendinger, chief of the Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital medical staff. �Having the helicopter pad on the hospital campus is an important ER service for our community. We have a great emergency services team, made up of our ambulance personnel and hospital ER staff, and the helicopter pad is helpful to their efforts.�

Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital will host an open house sometime in the spring to show the public its new helipad and share information about emergency services that are available in the Vermillion area.

Approved by the city planning commission, city council, and the State Aeronautics Commission, the helipad was built by hospital maintenance staff and local contractors. Construction was a joint project of the Dakota Hospital Association and Foundation and Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Campus.

�Our staff did a great job,� Paulson said. �They take a lot of pride in their work.�

Assistance was also provided by Kerry Berg, director of flight operations for Sioux Valley Intensive Air, and Kay Boik, flight nurse.

�As a member of the Sioux Valley Health Systems, we had a lot of assistance in developing the new helipad with their direction and instruction,� Paulson said. �They came to Vermillion on several occasions to work with the staff in planning and making the helipad operational. That made a difference in how to proceed, what was needed for communication purposes and how to make it all work.�

Cooperation with the city and its fire, police and ambulance departments was also critical.

�The staff at the hospital worked closely with them to establish the right course of action to take,� Paulson said.

�We are grateful for the assistance and cooperation everyone has shown us in making the helipad a reality,� he added. �This project has been a team effort from the beginning and is a wonderful example of community service and civic mindedness in further improving our ability to provide comprehensive emergency services for those in need.�

Neighboring residents, who expressed concern about the location of the helipad to the city planning commission last fall, were also kept informed about the project�s progress.

�We discussed with them the experiences of other communities where helipads are located in close proximity to residential areas,� Paulson said. �We explained the safety precautions that will be taken, how our maintenance staff will respond to provide security for the area when a helicopter lands and keeping the pad clear of debris so it doesn�t blow around. The noise and wind will still be there, but we�ll do what we can to alleviate the other concerns.

�We appreciate our neighbors in their understanding of the need for this helipad,� he continued. �And we will remain committed to being good neighbors to them and providing this service in a safe manner.�

Testing on the helipad has been completed and it is now in service for use by helicopter emergency medical teams from Sioux Valley Hospital and McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, along with Marian Health Center in Sioux City, IA.

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