ARLINGTON — Cascade Valley Hospital and Clinics is getting a new helistop in hopes of cutting down transportation times for patients who need critical care.
Construction starts Monday across Stillaguamish Avenue from the main hospital building, in a grassy field next to the employee parking lot. The helistop is expected to be done in four to six weeks.
The hospital this year has seen an average of 1,850 visitors to the emergency room each month. Of those, one or two people per month generally need care beyond what the hospital can provide, assistant administrator Heather Logan said.
Cascade Valley works with Airlift Northwest, part of UW Medicine, to transport patients by air to a Level 1 or Level 2 trauma center when needed. One of Airlift Northwest’s five Washington bases is at the Arlington Municipal Airport, roughly a 10-minute drive or a 2-minute flight from the hospital. The others are in Bellingham, Seattle, Olympia and Yakima.
When a patient needs to be airlifted, the Arlington Fire Department drives medics from the airport to the hospital, where they load the patient into the ambulance and drive back to the airport to secure the patient into a helicopter for the flight to Seattle, Airlift Northwest Chief Flight nurse Brenda Nelson said. With the new helistop, helicopters will be able to land across the street from the hospital and patients can be loaded directly into the helicopter, saving valuable minutes.
“That’s the best way to take care of a patient,” Nelson said. “You transfer them in one movement so you’re not jostling them around.”
The number of patients in any given month who need trauma care and the types of injuries or illnesses that can trigger an airlift are varied, Logan said.
Usually, severe cases are taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, about a 20-minute flight from the Arlington hospital. There, they land on a parking structure roof, are placed into a medical van and driven around the corner to the Seattle hospital’s emergency entry.
In every case, time matters.
“It could be anything,” Logan said. “Traumatic injuries. Car accidents are a whole category. Cardiac issues. Burn victims could be taken. It’s really unpredictable.”
The hospital started planning for the new helistop in January. Several years ago, it stopped using the hospital’s old one because it was hemmed in on three sides by trees growing on private property and it was getting dangerous to land and take off there, Logan said. After a few years of shuttling to and from the airport, hospital administrators decided it would be better for patient safety and care to have a helistop again, this time in a hospital-owned field where they can clear out any trees or other obstacles.
Nelson estimates landing at the hospital could save 15 minutes or more, varying on a case-by-case basis, by cutting out drive time to and from the airport and the time it takes to unload and reload patients from the ambulance to the helicopter.
The construction of the helipad includes removing trees, leveling ground, installing a concrete pad, painting and lighting the area. Helicopters could be called to the new helistop at any time once it’s finished.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.