The push is on for approval of a helipad atop the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital at the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus but, before construction, the pad needs to be signed off by local, state, and federal officials.
Women & Children’s Hospital President Allegra Jaros said parent company Kaleida Health has done all the necessary work to get the plan approved, and is not expecting any additional hurdles.
“The team that has been working on this for Kaleida, and our consultants, have been working closely with Mercy Flight and the leadership there to make sure we are looking at it from all the right perspectives to put safety first,” said Jaros.
At the federal level, the importance of the project is being bolstered by Congressman Brian Higgins and Senator Charles Schumer, who are focused on passing the plan by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Higgins said there is no current holdup in the approval process, but he wants to ensure the application does not get stuck in a pile of paperwork. Higgins said his and Schumer’s power behind the plan shows the FAA that the helipad is a priority for the region. The new hospital will be a first-class medical center, according to Higgins, and having quick emergency access is key to keeping it that way.
“This heliport and its approval is going to be very, very important toward representing that continuum of services that will be required to keep this a state-of-the-art facility,” Higgins said.
The question of local approval has also been raised. When a helipad was installed at Women and Children’s Hospital years ago, nearby residents were not all pleased. This time around, things could be different.
“We haven’t heard a lot of local opposition to it,” Higgins said. “I’m certain there’ll be some. Change is hard.”
Higgins said change has to be embraced as a community, and he noted that it has been done from the medical campus down to the waterfront.
The new helipad will be neighbors with one that already exists atop Buffalo General Medical Center, so nearby residents may be accustomed to it. Jaros said the new campus is highly focused on medical services.
“And so we don’t expect this to disrupt anyone in the community at this point,” said Jaros.
Jaros said it is a good move for the community, and Higgins said most people in Western New York are supportive of it.
The Oishei Children’s Hospital is expected to be completed in 2017.