February 24, 2020
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Belfast board to review hospital helipad proposal

BELFAST, Maine — The planning board will review a proposed helipad for Waldo County General Hospital when it meets later this month.

The helipad is planned for an existing paved parking lot off the north side of the main hospital building.

The landing area would be a 45-foot-square area, painted in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration recommendations, with barriers beyond the landing site to provide a dedicated area more than 60 feet wide.

The helipad would be sited and constructed in a manner consistent with recommended FAA guidelines for hospital helipad facilities, according to project engineer SMRT of Portland.

City Planner Wayne Marshall said the review would be mostly a formality because the project does not involve any new structures, changes of impervious surfaces used, changes to storm water runoff or signs. He said that under the city’s zoning code, WCGH is situated in a Health Care District and is required to have a site plan review whenever changes are proposed.

“This is an accessory use to the hospital and the code allows health care facilities in this zoning district,” Marshall said Thursday.

The helipad would not require any excavation or reconstruction of the existing paved surface. Minor modifications necessary, according to SMRT’s application, would include lowering the height of existing light poles to the west of the helipad from 20 feet to 12 feet, some changes to landscaping, and the addition of a lighted windsock on a utility pole adjacent to the maintenance building.

Twenty-three parking spaces, used primarily for staff, will be removed as part of the project. There will be no changes to dedicated patient parking areas.

Marshall said LifeFlight of Maine would use the helipad to transport critical-care patients to larger hospitals in Bangor, Portland or Lewiston. He said patients would not be dropped off at the hospital.

Mark Biscone, the hospital’s executive director, said the hospital averages two helicopter transports a month with LifeFlight of Maine, which provides statewide medical helicopter service to transport critically ill and injured patients.

It takes about 12 minutes to take a patient from the Belfast hospital by ambulance to the Belfast Municipal Airport to be picked up by the helicopter. Biscone said in that 12 minutes, a patient picked up at the hospital already could be in Bangor, Lewiston or Portland; or at least be close to it in the medical helicopter, which func-tions as a small intensive care unit.

When a patient’s condition is severe enough to require care found only at a specialty care facility or trauma center, transport usually can be made by ambulance. But there are times when a life-threatening condition requires medical transport by air, Biscone said.

The new helipad would be used for emergencies only, and the noise is not expected to be any more disruptive than that associated with the current emergency vehicle traffic.

If a helicopter lands at the site, the engine noise normally lasts for only six or seven minutes — four minutes for the approach and landing, three minutes to restart and depart. While on the ground for the transfer of the patient, the helicopter’s engine would be off.

The proposed helipad is being done in cooperation with LifeFlight of Maine and would be paid for with proceeds from a state bond. The planning board is expected to begin its review of the application on May 13.



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