Hospital's plans for helipad stirs debate

July 19, 2009 7:43:39 AM PDT
Children's Memorial Hospital is talking about safety measures for the helipad it plans to build atop its new facility in Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood.The hospital says the helipad is crucial to saving lives. But many residents there fear it will be dangerous.

On Friday, Children's Memorial Hospital held a press conference to announce public hearings about the proposed helipad.

In three years, the hospital is expected to relocate to Streeterville. While neighbors welcome the hospital, some are opposed to helicopter traffic.

The new children's hospital will be on Chicago Avenue. Part of the plan would include a helipad to bring the sickest children to the hospital by helicopter. That part of the plan is drawing criticism.

"All the conditions created by the surrounding buildings the wind shear, the swirling winds, the vortexes, the 'squirly' wind conditions, those are a concern," said Patty Frost, Streeterville Organization of Active Residents.

Opposition to the helipad comes after a deadly medical helicopter accident last year.

In October, a toddler was killed on her way to Children's Memorial for treatment.

Three crew members on her flight were also killed.

"We are concerned about the safety of everybody on board those helicopters including the patients and everyone that lives works and visits this community," said Frost.

"This is all about safety and the fact that safety has not been demonstrated by the hospital," said Frost.

On Thursday, Children's Memorial Hospital executives say their helipad offers timely care for the most critical patients and that safety guides their decisions to offer helicopter transport.

"As medical professionals nothing is more important to us than safety: the safety of our patients, the safety of our family the safety of our staff and the safety of our community. and we do not take chances on safety," said Michelle Stephenson, chief nurse executive, Children's Memorial Hospital.

The most emotional testimony today for the helipad came from the mother of Lindsay Matthias. Two years ago, Lindsay critically ill in a Kankakee hospital.

"As the helicopter arrive, Lindsay went into her first of two cardiac arrests along with a multitude of other medical emergencies if Lindsay had been transported by ambulance from 65 miles away the probability of her being with us today is very slim," said Michelle Matthias, mother of patient.

Lindsay doesn't remember much about that time. But she does remember arriving at Children's and seeing the sky from her stretcher.On Friday, she wanted to see the helipad from a different, healthier perspective.

Lindsay and her family advocate for the new helipad in Streeterville and any family that may need emergency transport for their child.

City council has approved site for helipad use and the FAA approved flight path. The last phase of the process is up to IDOT.

Public hearings on the heliport proposal are scheduled for four days: July 22, 23, and 24 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on July 25 from noon to 4 p.m. at Robert Lurie Research Center, Hughes Auditorium, 303 East Superior Street.


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