Syringa Hospital helipad: Denial not the end; still an answer here

Pedestrians, patients, residents, travelers, business patrons, children, crossing guards, medical personnel.  Vehicles, gas pumps, power lines, trees, debris, rotor wash, noise. Wind, rain, snow, sleet. City streets, Highway 13, U.S. 95. Distractions, human vulnerability, safety.

Count the pieces. Consider the variables. Picture the best scenario, visualize the worst.

Syringa Hospital (its CEO, board members and emergency personnel) is to be broadly commended for its foresight, community caring and business acumen. The passionate proposal for a helipad had merits and certainly illustrated a need. No one questions the potential benefits a helipad would have for Grangeville and beyond. Syringa had a good idea, but a mediocre plan.

For the original proposal to work, all the pieces would have to be synchronized and orchestrated perfectly. Due to the very real risk factors of human error, mechanical failure and quick weather changes, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommendation and Grangeville City Council decision was valid. This was not a win or lose situation and it certainly should not have been a contentious issue. The council’s decision should not be the end of the process but an edifying part of an ultimate, workable solution.

After reading and re-reading the various testimonies, a couple thoughts surfaced:

—It seems to me the 20 minute “life-or-death” lag time is not so much about the access to an emergency helicopter but the delay in getting a patient re-geared with ‘copter-compatible equipment. The half-hour lapse between the helicopter request and its arrival is sufficient time for a patient to be transported to the existing airport. Perhaps there should be a unified push to have the needed patient equipment standardized for all helicopters. Every hospital would have an on-site set so the patient could be properly prepared ahead of time.

—If ambulance availability is an issue in the event of several simultaneous emergencies, perhaps Syringa should consider the purchase of another conveyance.

—I cannot fault Syringa for “buying into” the opportunity of purchasing the vacant “Ernie’s” lot. There was some criticism about this property being removed from the tax rolls yet there was a three-year period when little was done to attract a commercial enterprise before Syringa acted. With the denial of the conditional use permit, perhaps Syringa would consider selling the property and re-investing in another ambulance and/or a viable “on-campus, roof-top helipad facility — or investigate other helipad options.

— With the uni-focus of the hospital board, perhaps a community task force would be beneficial to consider and debate the many aspects of another proposal.  There is an answer here and a cross-section of input could be valuable and productive.

Shelley Dumas is a Grangeville City Councilor.

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