Kaweah Delta Celebrates a Year of Helipad Landings

The helipad at Kaweah Delta Medical Center.
The helipad at Kaweah Delta Medical Center.

The first operational helipad in Tulare County surpassed the number of landings anticipated in its first year, with nearly a third of those bringing patients to Kaweah Delta Medical Center for life-saving care.

Kaweah Delta Medical Center’s helipad received 183 helicopter landings in its first year, 51 of which brought patients to the hospital for care, while 132 transferred patients out of the area to receive a higher level of care.

One of the first inbound flights since the helipad became operational on June 3, 2013, brought Pete Atkins of Escondido to Kaweah Delta after he was injured on a horse packing trip in a remote area between Tulare and Inyo counties inaccessible by car.

“I fell on my right shoulder, my elbow jammed into my rib cage and I heard my bones crack,” Atkins said. “If it wasn’t for that helicopter, I think I would have bought the farm. It’s a fact that because there was a helipad I was able to get care and attention much more rapidly.”

At the time, Atkins couldn’t walk and couldn’t get on his horse. His guide came to the rescue riding north until he got to a ranger station where he radioed for help. Not long after, SkyLife’s helicopter landed and Atkins was carried onboard. In 26 minutes, Atkins was at Kaweah Delta.

The $2.7 million helipad was completed with help from $2.3 million in community donations made to the Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation, which plays a key role in helping Kaweah Delta, the only trauma center between Fresno and Bakersfield. Since the designation in 2011, the number of trauma patients has more than doubled to over 1,000 trauma patients each year.

“The helipad has had far reaching effects for the region,” said Dr. Nichole Meissner, director of trauma at Kaweah Delta. “It’s helped trauma victims get treatment faster, and treatment in the first hour has a significant impact on survival, especially when it comes to trauma.”

Kaweah Delta is a 581-bed district and is the only trauma center between Fresno and Bakersfield. For more information, visit www.kaweahdelta.org.

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