VALPARAISO | The departure of Porter hospital from Valparaiso has created a different kind of parking problem. Not for cars, but for emergency medical helicopters.
The helicopters used to land on the hospital roof to transport patients to other locations. It was centrally located from just about any location in the city. With the hospital's move and the demolition of the old building, now underway, the city's Fire Department needed another helicopter landing site.
Assistant Fire Chief Dan Lamb has been working to line up several sites around the city to be used for emergencies. Three of those sites are city parks, which the city's Park Board approved in April. The parks are West Side, Glen Rose North (next to ValPlayso) and Foundation Meadows.
Park Board members were concerned about the liability if people are using the parks, but the Fire Department said the helicopter would only land if there were no activity in the area.
"It's a project that is countywide," Lamb said. "We tried to do it throughout the city. If we are close to the airport, we will go there, but, if we are north or west of the city, the run would be too long. So, we wanted to find other areas for patient pickups."
He said the parks are open and recognizable for the pilots to find and land. Lamb said he also got approval to use an open field on Washington Street across from Green's Towing, and he plans to ask the Porter County commissioners for approval to use the open area in front of the former county home on Ind. 2.
"There are times when we have patients that we classify as trauma alert," Lamb said in his request to the Park Board. "These types of patients must be delivered to the nearest level one trauma center within one hour of an incident.
"At this time there is no such trauma center within one hour driving time, so we would have the patient flown out. All landings are monitored by Fire Department personnel that have training in setting up a landing zone. Fortunately, these types of calls are few and far between, so this will not occur very often."
He said the time needed to land, load the patient and take off is only about 10 to 15 minutes.