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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 9:20 EDT

New $4 Million Helipad Tops Off AAMC Expansion

August 29, 2008

By EARL KELLY Staff Writer

A gentle breeze blew across Anne Arundel Medical Center’s new helipad yesterday, a $4 million rooftop landing area that will be linked by elevator directly to the hospital’s emergency room.

The pad will go into service in December, hospital officials said.

AAMC’s current helipad is about a quarter of a mile away from the hospital, on the far side of Jennifer Road.

“We have to call an ambulance (that’s on contract with the hospital), get a crew, go pick up the patient, and come back,” said nurse Lillian Banchero, director of patient access.

Until last year, the helipad was located closer to the hospital, but still required patients to be exposed to the elements when being transferred. That landing area was closed when a new garage was built next to the hospital.

Ms. Banchero said designated medical staff will begin training in November, learning how to work with helicopters in the new facility.

From the rooftop pad, it is possible to see the Chesapeake Bay, the tops of the Bay Bridge’s towers and the State House. The landing area is surrounded by lightning rods, and has a metal safety net around the edges to catch anyone who steps off the ledge.

The steel landing area will measure 60 feet by 55 feet, and will accommodate one large helicopter at a time, hospital personnel said.

“The helipad is sized to handle a Black Hawk helicopter,” said medical center Senior Vice President Carolyn W. Core, who oversees strategic planning. “In 9/11, they grounded all the private helicopters, and the only people who could transport patients were the military.”

For comparison purposes, a military Black Hawk weighs about 17,000 pounds, or roughly four times as much as a Maryland State Police medevac helicopter.

The helipad itself was installed during the first three weeks of June.

Safety has been a big part of the design, Ms. Core said, and the new landing area has systems for de-icing the surface, catching any fuel spills and suppressing fires.

Anne Arundel Medical Center averages about 15 takeoffs and landings a month, Ms. Core said, with many flights involving transferring patients from AAMC to specialized hospitals.

Patients who might be transported include a premature infant who needs specialized care, or a trauma victim who couldn’t be flown directly to a shock trauma center, perhaps because of bad weather.

Most of the inter-hospital flights are flown by medevac companies such as MedStar, a non-profit corporation that operates medical transportation systems.

Ms. Core said there is no plan to make AAMC a shock trauma center.

“Running a shock trauma operation is so different from running a (typical) hospital,” she said, noting the large and costly staff that trauma centers must have around the clock.

Next door to the hospital, a crew is preparing the groundwork for a new eight-story wing that will include 50 patient rooms, plus eight additional operating rooms.

Besides housing the 50 new beds, the 300,000-square-foot, $240 million addition will have two floors, or about 30 beds, in reserve capacity, said hospital spokesman Justin Paquette. These rooms can be added if the state certifies there is a need. Also, three more floors can be built atop the new structure, if they are ever needed.

“This will allow us to keep the options open as the hospital grows,” Mr. Paquette said.

Across Medical Parkway from the main building, work continues on a new seven-story, 240,000 square-foot ambulatory services pavilion, which will include doctors’ offices, classrooms and a 400-seat auditorium.

The new facility is being built next to the Sajak Pavilion and will include a 950-space parking garage, and will be linked to the hospital by a pedestrian bridge crossing the parkway.

The bridge will be lifted into place by crane on the weekend of Oct. 25, Ms. Core said. The complete $424 million AAMC campus expansion will be finished in 2010 will nearly double the size of the current hospital.

The added space is needed, hospital officials said, because of the aging population and the influx of new households as a result of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC. {Corrections:} {Status:}

(c) 2008 Capital (Annapolis). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.