Helipad closer to reality

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The new helipad behind Natchez Regional Medical Center is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Adams County Airport Commission accepted the lowest bid Wednesday to begin building the helipad behind the hospital.

The winning bid was for $146,934.95 from Dirt Works, Inc., of Vicksburg. The airport commission received four bids for the project, all of which were at or below the engineer&8217;s estimated cost, Airport Manager Clint Pomeroy said Wednesday.

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The commission will have the helipad built behind the hospital, Pomeroy said. Once completed, the hospital will take over maintenance for the helipad.

The helipad will be funded completely by grant money from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, Pomeroy said.

He said he hoped to see construction begin by the end of July.

The helipad will provide much faster access to and from both Natchez Regional Hospital and Natchez Community Hospital.

&8220;Right now, the helicopter has to land at the airport and patients have to be transported by ambulance, which can add as much as an hour,&8221; Pomeroy said.

He said most of the helicopters that use the airport are flying patients out of the area, but some patients are flown in. Pomeroy said he saw an average of two to three medical helicopters land each month, sometimes more.

The helipad is designed to support all types of medical helicopters, he said.

Natchez Regional Medical Center CEO Jeffrey Wesselman said he was looking forward to the project.

&8220;It seems it&8217;s been many years in the works,&8221; Wesselman said. &8220;But we&8217;re finally here.&8221;

Wesselman said the hospital administration has met with the architects who will be working on the project.

&8220;We&8217;ll be able to provide better healthcare for the county,&8221; he said. &8220;This way, people don&8217;t have to drive 18 miles to get to a hospital in an emergency.&8221;