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Pa. hospital plans to build heliport

May 02, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Waynesboro Hospital plans to build a heliport for the helicopters that fly critically ill patients to trauma centers.

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The new helicopter pad to be constructed across the street from the hospital would replace a hilly grass field on which ambulances have gotten stuck and nearly tipped over, according to a zoning officer.

The hospital must obtain a zoning variance to build the helipad.

The Waynesboro Zoning Hearing Board will consider the request Thursday at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall.

Rita C. Brizzee, hospital vice president and chief operating officer, said Tuesday that helicopter traffic has continued to increase from the time the first chopper airlifted a patient from the hospital 10 years ago.

Hershey Medical Center Life Lion helicopters, which provide most of the airlift service for the hospital, along with Maryland State Police helicopters, land in a field the Waynesboro Area School District lets them use.

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The helicopters rush critically injured people - frequently accident victims - to larger, more specialized hospitals such as Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center or the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Helicopter pilots support construction of a heliport that would be level, blacktopped and illuminated, Brizzee said.

"It will be safer and a lot more convenient," she said. "This hospital can operate without it, but it will be a community helipad as well."

Snow has prevented helicopters from landing in the grass field on occasion, she said.

"They have had to clear off a space in the driver's education parking lot at the high school so the helicopters could land," she said.

The new heliport, to be built on land where East Junior High School once stood, would be on hospital-owned property and would be maintained by hospital employees, she said.

Waynesboro Zoning Enforcement Officer Douglas Pyle said the existing landing site is unsafe.

"There have been times when ambulances almost tipped over going down that hill," he said. "Sometimes they get stuck in the wet grass."

Pyle said he sent notices to all neighbors of the proposed site and no one has expressed opposition so far.

Brizzee said the new heliport, to be built on the southwest corner of the old school property along East Main Street, would have its own paved access road and would be surrounded by in-ground lighting. It would be 200 feet closer to the hospital than the current landing site, she said.

Cost of building the helipad and the access road would be about $30,000.

Brizzee said the hospital has asked State Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Franklin, for assistance in getting a state grant to help defray the costs.

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