Nobody wants to spend much time at the new $4 million Hennepin County Medical Center addition, which is opening Thursday.
A state-of-the-art helispot at the addition will help greatly with that because it is designed to move trauma patients more quickly into the hospital for care.
The old spot, blocks away, sits on top of a parking ramp and requires patients to be transported down an elevator and into an ambulance for a two-block ride to the emergency department.
The new spot, on the 10th story in the same building as the operating rooms and emergency department, also has a newly built elevator dedicated solely for its use. The elevator opens on the ground floor just steps from the stabilization room, where the most critical patients go. The elevator's only other stops are the skyway level, the fourth floor for the burn unit and the seventh floor for the intensive care units.
Bill Heegaard, chief clinical officer and emergency department physician, said the new stop will "expedite movement of the patient when seconds matter."
The older helispot will remain open in case it's needed at a busy time, but Heegaard said taking patients directly down an elevator is much more efficient than taking them to a vehicle on the street.
Fred Ames, facilities manager for HCMC, said, "It will save how many minutes? It might save a life."
About 350 patients annually are flown to HCMC, the state's largest Level 1 Trauma Center, from places up to 220 miles away, including Fargo, Bemidji and northern Iowa.
Heegaard said the new stop will allow for quicker turnaround of Life Link III flights, making "hot loads" possible, where the helicopter lands then takes off without powering down.
HCMC's helispot also has another official duty as the designated facility for the U.S. president when he or she is in town. Because of that, the 4,160-square-foot helispot had to be extra sturdy to accommodate 11 tons and bear the weight of the presidential helicopter.
No shoveling here
The new helispot has state-of-the-art snow removal capabilities that would make any Minnesotan salivate with envy. There will be no shoveling here. The heated pad can melt up to 48 inches of snow a day without special preparation.
Sensors connected to the pad turn up the heat when moisture is detected and the temperature drops below 35 degrees. A drainage system ensures the water doesn't pool.
Helicopter pilots can turn on the pad's lights by tuning into the proper radio frequency as they approach. One thing the new stop cannot accommodate is instrument landings. It's visual flight rules only, meaning the pilots have to be able to see where they're dropping down.
The inaugural landing on the new helispot will occur during an event Thursday that also features the groundbreaking for the new $200 million ambulatory clinic across the street. The first honorary passenger aboard will be 6-year-old Reagan Lennes of Alexandria.
In March 2014, Reagan was flown to HCMC after her head was caught in a stairway elevator system, breaking bones all over her face and leaving her unrecognizable to her own mother. The Star Tribune has chronicled her remarkable recovery, but Reagan doesn't remember her helicopter ride to HCMC.
"We're hoping this ride is one she'll never forget," said Andrew Kiragu, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit.