PHOTO CAPTION: During the initial test landing on 11-17-12, Facilities Director Elaine LaRochelle and several of her staff were positioned at key locations throughout the hospital to watch for anything out of the ordinary that could be a potential cause for concern. "It went just great!" said an excited LaRochelle, who later posed with some of her crew for a photo to mark the historic occasion.
On November 21st Grande Ronde Hospital transported its first patient from the new Helistop, improving the quality of emergency health care for current and future generations of rural Northeast Oregon residents. Clearance for full use was authorized by the City of La Grande earlier that same day.
It has been a long-held dream of the Hospital to be able to provide such a service, but was not viable with only fixed-wing air service based in the community. The purpose of the Helistop is to shave time off patient transfers for trauma, neonatal, cardiac, stroke or burn care emergencies when time is most critical to the life and health of the patient.
“We are excited about being able to take full advantage of the opportunity we have with the addition of a helicopter based here, which has already proven beneficial for Union County patients. Having the helicopter land here will further improve emergency care for more of our patients while alleviating safety concerns over landings at Central Elementary,” said Doug Romer, executive director of patient care services at Grande Ronde Hospital.
Having a direct flight path in and out of the Helistop for the small, but powerful Life Flight A-Star helicopter provides quicker and safer transfer times for the Hospital’s most critical patients. Hospital staff works directly with the Life Flight crew to hand off patients for the waiting aircraft via a walkway that leads from the Hospital’s second-floor Medical-Surgical unit through a climate-controlled vestibule.
A preliminary test landing was coordinated between Grande Ronde Hospital and Life Flight on Saturday, November 17. That first historic touchdown was witnessed by a handful of hospital employees and emergency services personnel from the City of La Grande.
“This was very exciting to finally see. We are so happy that everything went very smoothly – the Helistop is truly a gift from the hospital to the community,” said Carl Bond, senior director of clinical services at Grande Ronde Hospital, after the test landing.
Bond explained that Facilities Director Elaine La Rochelle had several staff members positioned at key locations throughout the hospital to monitor noise, vibration and watch for anything out of the ordinary that could be a potential cause for concern.
“It could not have gone any better,” Bond added. “We are all extremely pleased. This has been a highly anticipated day for so many people. Hospital Project Manager Tim Wilcox, Elaine and her staff have worked long and hard on this project. They can be proud today.”
Work began on the Helistop project in May of 2012. According to Wilcox building the $1.2 million helistop was a project unlike any other he’s undertaken during his career in construction management.
“Integrating local, state, and federal codes with FAA and OSHA requirements, along with the added geological site issues of construction on a hillside will definitely challenge a person, “ he said. “But watching that helicopter fly off with a patient in need gives us all a measure of pride and satisfaction in the end result.”
Wilcox noted that the Life Flight Network’s involvement was important to the success of the project, as well asassistance fromthe City of La Grande, especially David Kloss, building inspector.
“Having Life Flight in this community is a pleasure. And David (Kloss) never hesitated to help when called. I also can’t say enough about the local contractors - Dan Davidson Construction Inc., DL Edmondson and their men of steel, Hampton Paving, Overton Electric, Barreto Manufacturing, Advanced Plumbing, Bagett, Griffith and Blackman, Anderson Perry, Stretch Masterson Floor Coverings, and Brooks Painting - all these folks helped make this project happen,” said Wilcox.
The GRH Foundation has raised funds to offset the $1.2 million expense of the project. Additional gifts for the project were provided by the Saint Alphonsus Heath System, Boise, and legacy gifts given by the estates of Glen and Jean McKenzie and Alex McKenzie. This spring, the Hospital and Foundation will hold a joint ceremony to officially open the Helistop with special tours for the public.
“This will be a very celebratory event for the entire community. We particularly want to provide an opportunity for our donors to see firsthand how their contributions make a difference to patient care in our community not only today, but for the long term,” said Will Simons, GRH foundation manager.