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Munroe applies to build helicopter landing zone

Ocala, FL - July 1, 2012
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 8:06 p.m.

Munroe Regional Medical Center recently applied for a permit to allow a helicopter landing zone near its main hospital building.

The move, said hospital officials, is to better serve the community and is not part of a plan to offer its own air-ambulance service or to apply for trauma center status with the state.

The 100-foot square area is between Southwest Third and Second Avenues in an empty lot used for MRMC employee parking. Applications were made to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation. A decision on the permit is expected within the next few months.

“We are about to open a neonatal intensive care unit and some of those babies may need to be transported. The children’s emergency department is opening in a month or a month and a half. It’s for any children we may need to transport or receive and for certain stroke or cardiac patients,” said Paul Clark, MRMC senior vice president and chief operating officer.

While the opening of the neonatal intensive care unit was postponed in April after some area pediatrician expressed concerns, the project is back under development, said Ryan Gerds, hospital spokesman.

“We’re moving forward with the design and construction and we’re working with the pediatricians to move forward with the Level 2, neonatal intensive care unit,” he said.

Gerds said the hospital hopes to start construction on the 10-bed NICU nursery by the end of the year.

A Level 2 NICU provides care for babies with moderate illness following delivery. The new nursery also would allow families with ill babies that were born elsewhere to return to the area for care.

“This (helicopter landing zone) goes along in expanding our services to a higher level for our children and nursery. We can save those babies about 20 minutes out of the nursery, time that is very important for neonatal babies and preemies,” said Vickie Sullivan, Director of Emergency Services at MRMC.

She said some stroke patients, who need procedures performed at Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville, also will benefit from the cut in travel time.

Currently, patients who need to be flown to Shands or other facilities are taken by ambulance from the hospital to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office substation helipad on South U.S. Highway 441 or the Ocala International Airport, Sullivan said.

If the proposed helicopter landing zone is approved, patients would only have to travel about 600 feet to the landing zone.

“With state grant money, we were able to purchase a street legal patient transport cart so we don’t have to tie up an ambulance to get them to the landing zone,” Sullivan said.

The area, across from a CVS Pharmacy to the west and a SunTrust Bank to the east, is fenced off and an orange windsock has been installed.

“It’s been surveyed and we’re not going to have to change the site or remove trees,” Clark said, adding the area would not get a concrete landing pad.

He hopes the newly opened ShandsCair helicopter, based near Spruce Creek in Summerfield, will take advantage of the landing zone.

“Any service that wants to land there is welcome. It will certainly complement the ShandsCair station in Spruce Creek,” Clark said.


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