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New heliport ready to move Plateau patients

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Enumclaw Community Hospital has completed construction of a new medical heliport, a facility that serves as a vital link in the emergency health care of seriously ill or injured patients.

The new heliport - a 40-foot square of asphalt, ringed by rock and cement blocks - was built on the grounds of the Helac Corporation, 225 Battersby Ave. The site is just a few blocks east of the hospital and both sit along Battersby.

For years, medical helicopters landed on a pad at Dwight Garrett Park, but that site was lost when the city expanded its skateboard park. Until the new site was built, copters were landing in the vacant field behind the community library.

The new heliport was made possible thanks to Helac's corporate generosity, according to Dennis Popp, executive director at the hospital.

Popp said the company is leasing the ground to the hospital for a token payment of $1 per month. Also, Helac made a financial contribution to offset the cost of heliport construction.

The entire project represented a cost of about $18,000, Popp said. He refrained from noting specifically how much Helac contributed, but noted the financial boost was "substantial."

A special celebration took place Thursday at the heliport site, where speakers told how the project got off the ground.

"As the largest privately held employer in Enumclaw, we are always looking for ways to give back to our community," said Dean Weyer, Helac's president and chief operating officer. "We are excited to have found an opportunity that has such a significant impact on each city resident."

According to Popp, a number of people were instrumental in the development of the new Medical Heliport. Enumclaw Fire Chief Joe Kolish has energetically pursued safe landing sites for medical helicopters, he said, and recent encouragement by Mayor John Wise and Airlift Northwest pilots aided the hospital to work with Helac to construct the new heliport. Steven Lodwig, safety officer for Airlift Northwest, provided extensive advice to guide the development of the project according to FAA standards, Popp said, and Dave Schodde and Allan Magstadt of Enumclaw Landscape Maintenance also provided construction advice and services to complete the project.

Emergency transportation between Enumclaw and Seattle area medical centers has been provided for years by Airlift Northwest, a non-profit medical flight service providing air-transport service to critically ill or injured patients throughout Washington, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Western Canada. Airlift Northwest uses four fully-dedicated twin-engine, instrument-certified helicopters and each flight team consists of two registered nurses with extensive critical care trauma experience.

Patients requiring air transport from the hospital or accident site are transported by fire department personnel or private ambulance to the heliport where the Airlift Northwest flight team continues the care and transportation duties until the patient arrives at the next medical center.

Popp said about 100 patients are transported each year from Enumclaw to Seattle-area hospitals.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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