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Helipad Now Operational at Women and Children's Hospital

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – After a ten-year battle, Mercy Flight is now able to transport patients to Women and Children's Hospital in Buffalo. But at least one resident remains outraged.

High atop one of the main buildings at Children's along Bryant Street, a Mercy Flight helicopter is now able to take off and land to transport critically sick or injured children and women to the hospital.

The helipad officially opened last Thursday, but was dedicated Monday.

Getting the helipad constructed was ten years in the making. Some residents who live nearby were concerned about safety and noise. However, Emergency Department physician, Dr. Kathleen Lillis, says Children's has addressed those concerns.

"I think was a lot of misconceptions. I had been told by neighbors they feared there would bright lights shining in their windows, that their china would fall off the wall," Lillis said. "Through the neighborhood meetings we had, I think most became very comfortable with the project."

Before the project was finalized last year, the Buffalo Common Council held public hearings to address safety concerns. But Robert Baeumaler, who lives across the street on Hodge, says he is outraged.

"I think it is going to crash. This is a residential area," Baeumaler said.

Bauemaler is a retired professor with an art studio inside his home. He says since Mercy Flight started landing Thursday, his home and yard are no longer peaceful.

"I was back raking leafs and they came right over the top of my house and very close to the top of a tree," Baeumaler said. "I'm concerned that they will crash into my studio and my whole life's work is back there."

"The pilots are competent. They don't have a tight landing area. They are very comfortable with it," Doug Baker, Mercy Flight president, said. "Had they not said that, we would be doing it, we wouldn't be here. It was strictly up to them."

Baker says the hospital helipad actually provides a "clean" landing area for his pilots.

"It is a great approach and a great departure," Baker said. "It is not in the industry what we call tight, and everyone is very comfortable with it."

In the past, Mercy Flight was forced to fly critically ill patients to ECMC first, then they would be transported by ground to Children's, adding more minutes onto life saving medical help.