The University of Virginia Medical Center is showing off its brand new helipad. It is located high atop the hospital, and doctors say it will improve the care critical patients receive.
The new helipad sits on the roof of the hospital, about 10 stories off the ground.
The need for it comes as UVA builds a new chiller plant on Crispell Drive. That plant will obstruct one of two approved flight paths to the current pad on the ground.
Kevin Fox with UVA Administrator
Facilities Planning said, "We had to change the location of our primary
helipad. Without any other ground
options, we had to come up into the air."
Construction on the $6.7 million pad started more than a year ago. The elevated position will improve safety for pilots by giving them a better approach, and UVA says a pair of high-speed elevators will ensure patients promptly get to the emergency room.
Director of emergency management Tom Berry said, "We're always looking for ways to make access into the medical center easier, safer for the air programs."
"We're not going
across a parking lot anymore. We can get
inside rapidly into a little bit more controlled environment," said Mike Wasilko, who is a flight supervisor on UVA's
medical helicopter Pegasus.
Incoming patients have two
dedicated high-speed elevators to get them from the 10th floor all the way down
to the emergency room. UVA says its own
studies indicate the travel time won't impact critical care needs.
"Virtually there's no
difference in getting a patient off of the pad and into the elevator system,"
The pad can hold a 16,000 pound chopper. Pegasus weighs about 6,000 pounds. The pad has a hot water system to keep ice and snow from forming on it. It also has fume mitigation and foam suppression systems.
Senior project manager Stephen
Rohr said, "Helicopter comes in and filters come into play and won't allow
any fumes from the helicopter to go into the hospital."
NBC29 is told the pad is still in the approval process. In about a month, dry runs will start with Pegasus crews. They will then open the pad up to three other air care operations that come into UVA.