Children’s Hospital & Medical Center has introduced a dedicated helicopter and begun building a temporary helipad because of construction on the hospital campus at 82nd Street and West Dodge Road.
Children’s is in the midst of adding the Hubbard Center for Children, a nine-story, state-of-the art clinical facility set to open in 2021. Once completed, it’s expected to provide room for existing and expanded programs for years to come. The hospital will then also have its own pad at the Hubbard Center.
The hospital’s transport teams currently are using a helipad at neighboring Methodist Hospital, as do those bound for Methodist. “It’s just not safe in certain situations to fly in to the Methodist one,” said Children’s spokeswoman Sarah Weller.
Due to construction, Children’s has three giant construction cranes on site.
The temporary helipad in a nearby lot will give pilots bound for either hospital another option. The interim pad will be on the southwest corner of a parking lot west of Children’s Indian Hills West building, 8404 Indian Hills Drive. The building is part of the hospital’s purchase from HDR Inc.
Because of an increase in pediatric transports, Children’s is also launching a dedicated helicopter, which it’s calling Kids Force One. The hospital is not purchasing the helicopter; it contracts with an air ambulance company, which is dedicating it for Children’s use.
In 2018, Children’s teams performed 2,964 transports — by ambulance and air — from around the region and across the country, up 7% from 2017.
The dedicated helicopter, officials said, will ensure that air transportation is available for children who need the hospital transport team’s pediatric expertise.
Weller said the majority of Children’s helicopter transports will land at the temporary site, but the decision will be up to the pilots. Children’s anticipates up to 30 landings a month at the temporary pad.
Officials expect to have the site ready next month; it should be in use for less than two years. Ambulances will transfer patients from the site to the hospitals. The Nebraska Medical Center similarly relocated a helipad in 2015 during construction of the Buffett Cancer Center.
“The temporary helipad site is a short-term alternative that ensures the safety of our young patients, care teams and pilots,” Weller said.
The Omaha City Council approved a special use permit for the project in late January, on the City Planning Board’s recommendation. City officials had contacted area residents and businesses about the project.
A representative of a homeowner’s association south of the temporary site contacted the hospital with questions and concerns about noise and safety, and the potential for property and landscaping damage.
In a response, hospital officials stressed that the temporary site was needed to maintain the safety of flights and that noise would be comparable to that of a motorcycle on the street. Officials don’t anticipate any landscape or property damage. The site will be kept clear of debris. Ambulances transporting patients from the site will not use sirens. Pilots will fly out toward the north whenever possible.