The best way to clear leaves from a lawn is to have a helicopter land there. The leaves went flying when a Classic Lifeguard helicopter based in Riverton landed prior to the dedication of a new helipad at Riverton Memorial Hospital today. (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The new helipad at Riverton Memorial Hospital was dedicated Tuesday afternoon with several short speeches, a ribbon cutting, and helicopter rides for hospital staff members and the media. Classic Lifeguard Aeromedical financed the helipad, which company Vice President Jason Atkins said would now be available for any medical helicopter to use.
“This really improves patient care, and it makes total sense to have a helipad so close to the Emergency Room,” Atkins said. RMH already had a helipad, but it also doubles as a parking lot and it’s the service entrance on the opposite side of the hospital from the ER. When a helicopter is en route, the lot must be cleared, the gates to the lot closed and in the winter season, that can be treacherous duty. And patients have to be moved through the entire hospital to reach the landing zone. The new helipad, however, is located just west of the ER.
“This is a nice addition and we’re thankful to Classic Lifeguard for their contribution,” said Riverton-Lander hospital administrator Steve Erixon. “It’s a nice safe place and it’s where a helipad should be.” Erixon said the new helipad is both safer and easier for staff and “and provides a better level of care for patients who must be transferred.”
Mayor Ron Warpness kept his remarks very short, saying he was “delighted” with the new facility and indicated “how beneficial it is” to the hospital and patients who need medical transport.
Atkins, Warpness, Pilot Jake Reutner and Erixon then cut the ribbon.
The helipad is the second built in Fremont County by the air ambulance firm since they located at Riverton Regional Airport 18 months ago. Last summer, Classic built a helipad just outside of Lander Regional Hospital’s ER. Classic expanded its Riverton base when they purchased the former US Energy hanger.
“I think this shows our commitment to the hospitals and the community, ” Atkins said.
Classic Lifeguard now employs about 28 full-time and part-time employees in Riverton. Riverton Base manager and Chief Pilot Jake Reutner said there are eight full time pilots, four of whom are assigned to the helicopter and four to the firm’s fixed wing aircraft here, one full-time mechanic and around 20 medics and flight nurses.
Atkins said Classic Lifeguard is in an expansion mode and now has five bases in Arizona, Utah and Wyoming, with its newest base in Moab, Utah coming on line this year. Other Classic bases are in Page, Arizona, Vernal, Utah, and Riverton. The company is headquartered in Woods Cross, Utah. ”We’ve found our helicopter and fixed wing have been able to cover the needs here,” he said, adding that it is the company’s plan to have a helicopter based full-time in Lander as well. Currently, an airship is parked there when available.
“We’ve seen heavy usage here in Riverton, and we average more than one flight a day. We’ve done as many as six transports in a day and other times only one,” Atkins said. “Our fixed wing can fly in weather the helicopter cannot, and that is also an advantage for patients.”
Reutner said most of the patient transports go to Casper, but he said the firm has gone to Billings, Salt Lake City, Denver and Idaho Falls. “It just depends on the nature of the call or need,” he said. “Our on board medical staff will decide when we are called to pickup a patient in the field, what hospital would be the best level of care for them.
“For instance, when the workers at the Lysite natural gas processing plant were burned, we flew two of them directly to the burn center in Greeley, Colo., rather than an intermediate hospital, because that was where they needed to be.”