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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 20, 2010

Work begins on Maui Memorial helipad

The Maui News

WAILUKU, Maui - Construction of a $3 million helipad officially launched Friday with a groundbreaking ceremony at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

"This is a really, really great effort and a great day for Maui," state Sen. Roz Baker said during a 20-minute event attended by about 40 people.

Maui Memorial Chief Executive Officer Wesley Lo said the helipad represents another milestone in the hospital's efforts to improve health care services for the county and state.

Baker, who represents West and South Maui residents, said the helipad was something people would have liked to see done "sooner than later." She called the late state Rep. Bob Nakasone of Kahului and state Sen. Shan Tsutsui of Wailuku "true champions," who worked to ensure that state appropriations were approved for the helipad.

The beginning of work on the helipad project comes as Maui Memorial has expanded its facility, including stroke intervention treatment, a new hospital wing with additional acute-care patient beds and the expansion of the facility's emergency room, Lo said.

He said the helipad would serve the entire county.

Patients flown to the hospital via the helipad will be placed on a motorized cart, similar to what professional football fans have seen used to haul injured plays off the field, Lo said.

The helicopter service is for emergency interfacility transports and emergency scene traumas. A helicopter's crew is stationed in Kula and is picked up by a helicopter from Kahului Airport to respond to calls for help or transport. (Kula medics also operate a ground ambulance. If they cannot respond to a call for air transport, a crew from the Wailea ambulance station serves as a backup.)

Once a patient is picked up and secured in the helicopter, it flies with the medical crew back to either the airport or the War Memorial field on Kanaloa Avenue, where a ground ambulance then crosses Kaahumanu Avenue and takes the patient to the hospital on Mahalani Street. That procedure will change after the helipad is constructed.

Candice Lahm, the chief flight medic for American Medical Response, said her crew averages about five helicopter emergency flights a month. Officials estimate that as much as 10 to 15 minutes could be saved in patient transport time with the helipad situated on the hospital grounds. A patient's chances improve with quicker transport to the hospital.

Lahm said another benefit is that the ground ambulances won't be tied up working with the chopper when patients can be transported directly to the Maui Memorial helipad.

There are no current plans to station the helicopter or the crew at the hospital, but a shelled, unimproved space will be set aside by the helipad to accommodate a crew in the future if needed.

Hospital officials said additional building requirements would have to be followed if a helicopter were stationed on Maui Memorial grounds.

The helipad is expected to be completed by Central Construction in October.