VALDOSTA, Ga. — Bill Forbes, chief planning officer for South Georgia Medical Center, spoke of the importance Tuesday of the new helipad to the community.
Forbes relayed a story about the first emergency lifeflight from the new pad, about three weeks ago, that helped to save the life of a 3-year old child.
“More lives will be saved,” Forbes said, as the dedication and ribbon cutting proceeded.
SGMC CEO Randy Sauls said the medical center is grateful to all who had a hand in the planning and execution of the project, which cost approximately $225,000 to build.
The helipad allows helicopters to land in close proximity to the Emergency Department in order to transport patients to critical care facilities that can offer a higher level of care than SGMC is able to at this time. Few if any of the flights will be in-bound to the hospital at this time.
Previously, all patients that had to be transported by air to another facility had to be taken by ambulance to the Valdosta Regional Airport for a flight. Now, the helicopters can come directly to the hospital, saving valuable time for the patients.
Sauls said there are three or four services which operate the medical flights, including Air Methods, which had one of its special air ambulance helicopters at the ribbon cutting Tuesday. The air crew gave tours of the specially designed aircraft to showcase their capabilities to serve patients in flight.
Amy Boutwell, clinical flight coordinator for Air Methods, said the service has 11 helicopters servicing the state of Georgia, with 120 medical crew members. A flight nurse and flight medic are part of each transport, in addition to the pilot.
According to Sauls, SGMC had 82 patients lifeflighted last year, but with the new helipad, said they are expecting that number to increase.
The helipad is built behind Mathis Auditorium near the Emergency Department. It’s 88 by 88 feet, with a six foot concrete slab to support the weight of the helicopters.
According to SGMC, the flights first became available in Valdosta in the early 1970s, and could land on grass near the hospital, but about 5 years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration required that they use the airport instead.