Sentara Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance transitioned from its original ground helipad at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to a rooftop array 296 feet above grade
on May 1, 2019. The new rooftop site includes a 45’ x 45’ pad exclusively for Nightingale and an adjacent 65’ x 65’ pad for other air ambulances in the region and U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy helicopters, which called at the hospital 21 times in 2018.
“It’s safer for us and the public to take off and land from the roof,” says Denise Baylous, program manager and flight nurse. “The ground pad is flanked by the hospital and a medical office building which creates a swirling effect that buffets the helicopter on windy days.”
There are two ground level pads. The lower one will be converted to ambulance and police parking outside the ED. The upper pad will remain for overflow landings on busy days when the rooftop pads are occupied and a third aircraft needs to land.
“This is an exciting evolution for our team,” Baylous says. “We’re looking forward to using this state-of-the-art system.”
IFR routes add weather capability
Rooftop landings coincide with adoption of nine FAA-approved IFR routes in eastern Virginia and northeast North Carolina in early 2019. Donations to the Sentara Foundation Hampton Roads helped fund a contract with Hickock & Associates consultants, who mapped the routes and obtained FAA approval over two years.
The IFR sites include Sentara Obici Hospital, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center and Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City plus the Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head. Other sites include EMS buildings in Corolla and Carova on the Outer Banks, the Isle of Wight County EMS building, plus Campbell Field Airport, a general aviation strip on the Eastern Shore.
“We look forward to taking more flights in cloudy weather and better serving our EMS partners and patients,” Baylous added.
The Nightingale program is in its 37th year of operation with more than 22,000 missions completed without a reportable incident. The focus on safety involves active participation by the clinical team in aircraft operations. Nurses and paramedics take turns riding with the pilot outbound to keep an external watch and monitor weather radar and radio traffic. In-flight conversation is mission-focused.
With a new rooftop helipad and IFR capability, the Sentara Nightingale program continues to evolve with an unwavering commitment to the Sentara Healthcare mission to improve health every day.
By: Dale Gauding, Senior Communications Advisor, Sentara Healthcare