June 10, 2005

Construction set to lift off on Children’s Hospital helipad

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Patient transport times will be reduced when the new helipad atop the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is complete.

Construction set to lift off on Children’s Hospital helipad

Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Board of Trust has approved the construction of the new helipad which will be situated atop the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Construction is slated to begin this month.

The decision was made after several months of debating if the helipad should be built before or after the construction of additional floors at Children's Hospital.

The helipad will be built so it can be temporarily removed when the hospital adds more stories, and then repositioned once the floors are completed. It has not yet been determined when additional floors will be added to Children's Hospital to accommodate its tremendous growth in inpatients.

Currently, helicopters transporting children to Children's Hospital must land on the helipad on top of Vanderbilt University Hospital. The new helipad will reduce the time it takes to shuttle children from the current helipad to Children's Hospital, minutes that are crucial for children and infants who are gravely ill or injured.

As of now, children who are flown in by LifeFlight and are too ill to be transported to Children's Hospital — a distance equal to the length of four football fields — are treated in the adult hospital.

“It's sub-optimal to take ill patients on a second journey of that magnitude,” said John Morris, M.D., professor of Surgery and director of the Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care and medical director for LifeFlight.

The construction of the helipad should be completed in approximately six months by Centex Construction. The architect is Earl Swensson Associates and the engineers are Smith Seckman Reid Inc.

“We're very excited about the beginning of construction, and that LifeFlight will be able to better serve the needs of the pediatric community,” Morris said.

The total cost is approximately $1.6 million. A $1.1 million grant from Rutherford County's Christy-Houston Foundation will provide the bulk of that. Larry Haynes is president and chairman of the board of the foundation.

“We're very grateful for the Christy Houston Foundation for their substantial support in this endeavor.” Morris said.

More than 5,000 Rutherford County pediatric patients are treated at Children's Hospital per year, and the county's patients transported via LifeFlight currently arrive at Vanderbilt in about 11 minutes.

A private donation by Bobby and Kathy Rolfe for $100,000 has also been made to help fund the building.

“The LifeFlight team is excited about how the helipad on VCH will dramatically enhance patient care by providing for faster access in critical pediatric emergencies,” said Jeanne Yeatman, director of LifeFlight. “The team is extraordinarily grateful and appreciative to the donors who made it possible and to Dr. Ian Burr for his facilitation of the acquisition of the helipad funding.”

Out of the 2,500 flights made each year by LifeFlight, 30 percent involve children who will directly benefit from the new helipad. The helipad will be located on the roof above the middle tower of patient rooms at Children's Hospital.