Lives at stake in helipad decision

Published 4:27 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

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To the Editor:

I was excited and relieved to see our Town Council pass an ordinance allowing for the relocation of the helipad. This important ordinance supports and promotes public health, safety and the general welfare of the town, county and community.

However, I am now deeply concerned by new developments that appear to open the door for all of this to be reversed. The consequences are serious and affect all of us in the community we call home.

Relocating the helipad ensures our hospital and care teams are best positioned to save lives. I witness firsthand the toll traumatic and chronic conditions take on our family, friends and neighbors. You never know when a car accident will occur or an acute stroke or heart attack will strike, and when it does, every second counts. Seconds, literally, can be the difference between life and death.

The current reality of our helipad location is not ideal for many reasons, but especially because we have to transport patients by ground to the high school and then load them for air transport. Importantly, patients that require air transport are the sickest among us. We are losing precious time in the fight for their lives.

To be clear, the possibility of walking out of an emergency room in a rural community and loading a patient directly onto a helicopter is something we cannot ignore. Many communities do not have this option. The peace of mind of knowing we can get our community members to a higher level of care and save lives is a collective goal I think we all share. For a patient having a heart attack and requiring a catheterization, we are losing at least 30 minutes in getting that patient to treatment at Vidant Medical Center (VMC). The problem with loss of time can be just as problematic or even more when treating a patient having an acute ischemic stroke.

Another important consideration for relocation of the helipad is the unnecessary impact on the Hertford County EMS. Having to transport patients from our local hospital to the high school could take them away from another community member having a life or death emergency. Their care could be delayed if EMS is tied up with transport.

Relocating the helipad allows us to get community members to a higher level of care more quickly and will save lives. When someone is in the helicopter for transit, imagine that this could be your family, your friend or your neighbor. In some cases, it may very well be.

It is my privilege and responsibility to speak and stand for those that rely on life-saving medical treatment. My voice is their voice. I want the community to know Vidant is always ready to do all we can to save lives and having the right resources in the right place, will do just that.

Our doctors, nurses and support team members are here for you, your family and your friends 24/7. I am honored to be a physician in this wonderful community and to serve you. Thank you for your support to ensure our health professionals have the tools needed to treat our community.

Dr. Joseph E. Tripp, MD

Emergency Medicine

Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital