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2/28/2013 5:01:00 PM
City Council hopes to work with hospital on helicopter issue

Marty Bachman


BLYTHE - Blythe Mayor Oscar Galvan, at the council meeting on Feb. 26, appointed council members Joey DeConinck and Mike Evans to work with Palo Verde Healthcare Board Member Sandy Hudson in helping find a solution to landing helicopters at Palo Verde Hospital for emergency transport.

Evans asked the council to add the emergency item after Caltrans had sent a cease and desist letter to the hospital demanding they stop landing helicopters at the hospital until the landing pad could be brought into compliance with state law. The council voted 5-0 to add the item to the agenda and discuss it.

City Attorney Christian Bettenhausen told the council that the city had been contacted earlier in the year by hospital officials who, at that time, were asking the city to approve the pad as an emergency-landing site. Bettenhausen said that there is a provision in the state code that allows a local law enforcement agency to approve a site for landing of helicopters. Emphasizing that it was an issue for the hospital board and not for the city council, he stated that the city was only involved because they had contacted Police Chief Steve Smith, who was reluctant to approve the site because it would make the city liable for it.

"If they're (Caltrans) saying it's not proper, I'm hesitant to advise chief to say its safe," Bettenhausen told the council. "My suggestion is to have the hospital hire someone familiar with safety codes and look at the site to determine what needs to be done to fix it or find a permanent site."

Bettenhausen said he was concerned that if Caltrans has a problem with the site but that the city decides it's OK, it would be the fault of the city if something goes wrong.

Evans said that the helipad had been in service for 40 years and that there was a "crucial golden hour" that could determine the life or death of a patient needing transport.

"It could happen to our family, our children or our spouse," he said. "That hour is crucial."

Smith said he agreed and that in the case of a true emergency, that he would close the street down and land the helicopter and get that person to the hospital. Smith made good on his word the night after the council meeting when Blythe police shut down Murphy between 1st and 2nd out front of the hospital, allowing a helicopter to land and load a patient for transport.

Healthcare District Board member Hudson said that the hospital is currently in dire financial straits and that her main concern is the hospital staying viable and continuing to employ people. She accused Evans of "grandstanding."

"We're concerned about this," Evans responded.

"I'd appreciate if you were concerned about the 150 jobs over there," Hudson said. "Of course we want a helipad but we have to be viable. Our priority is preserving the jobs of the 150 employees and remaining viable."

Hudson said it was up to the hospital's surgery department to stabilize patients so they could be transferred safely.

"We haven't done studies yet," she said. "We don't have the money. We got the notice last Friday and we haven't voted on it, haven't authorized it and it hasn't been on the agenda."

Pat Wolfe, the former fixed base operator at Blythe Airport, told the council the problem wasn't the safety of the helipad but a matter of paperwork. He downplayed the time difference between flying out by helicopter or by plane, saying that it was the amount of time it would take to "drink a cup of coffee."

"Five or 10 minutes is not a problem," he told the council.

"Are you in the medical field," Evans asked?

No. I worked at the airport," Wolfe responded.

Wolfe reiterated that it was just paperwork that stopped the landing site.

"Somebody wanted to fly out everyone by helicopter and that brought it out to light," he told the council. "If we hadn't said anything we could have kept using it. It's not unsafe down there - just the paperwork hasn't been brought in."

Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei complained about safety issues and blamed Evans, the newspaper and the "haters" for making the helicopter landing at the hospital an issue. He said that a plane is the preferred method of transportation and that helicopters are only for emergencies.

"It's not an issue of safety but a political move," he said. "You have to wonder what happened that the helicopter came up. There's no patient that has suffered by not having a helicopter."

Councilman Sam Patel told Sahlolbei that the hospital shouldn't be political.

"We don't want to be involved in the hospital board," he said. "They need to solve this issue. Don't bring your political problems here. You solve your own problem. You come here if you need some help. As a city we need to watch what is happening."

Councilman Joey DeConinck then suggested that members of the council meet with members from the hospital board and Caltrans to get the issue taken care of.

"We need to get the FAA man here and Caltrans, get them all here, and see if we can get this problem solved," DeConinck said. "I would also like to say we're working with the hospital, not trying to take over anything from the hospital. What we can help legally, liability-wise, we're here to do the best we can."



Related Stories:
• Healthcare District Board drops suit against Sahlolbei
• FPPC rules Hudson has conflict and can't vote on issues concerning hospital chief of staff, Sahlolbei
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Hospital's new interim-CEO might be too ethical to last
• TIMES EDITORIAL: No end in sight to Palo Verde Hospital drama
• Desert Air official fought to halt emergency helicopters from landing at hospital
• TIMES EDITORIAL: Conflicts at Palo Verde Hospital will soon cost someone their life
• Emergency transport helicopters to be banned from landing at hospital
• TIMES EDITORIAL: District Attorney Paul Zellberbach owes Blythe more than an apology

Related Links:
• Healthcare District Board votes 3-2 to fire CEO Peter Klune
• Fired hospital chief had proposed basing helicopter at hospital prior to dismissal
• Drop in patients and surgeries pushes hospital to financial brink


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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Article comment by: dang it

I think it would be nice if the city helped out the hospital.

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: @@ @Mike Evans

Hey. I'm not totally stupid! You know what happened to Weete for having an opinion. That's why NOBODY except people like you and your (deleted) with his rambling monologues can speak unhindered and unafraid. That's the way YOUR kind works. Intimidation.

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: @ @@ mike evans

So you are one of those people that go to the meeting I see and sit there with your hands under your behind and say absolutely nothing and then run home and get on the computer and trash the people that you disagree with. Takes a big person to do that, what intestinal fortitude you have. By they way quick question, your references to Sam Burton as Gofer, are you referring to the character from the tv show "Love Boat" when you all are saying that? Just a rumor I have heard.

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: @ fearful employee

So are you saying that having an excusive is required to meet the standards of the EMTLA law? Where there not much simpler steps that could have been taken to keep the helipad open back in October? If you want the truth then let's be fully open and truthful here and quit blowing smoke. Can you seriously tell me that you do not think there was any political revenge in the decision to go after an exclusive.

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: Phantom Nose

If the twins really cared about the hospital's employees they wouldn't have unleashed the problem. I don't usually agree with Mike Evans. This time he got it right though.

Posted: Monday, March 4, 2013
Article comment by: @ @Mike Evans

Come on, now. Get serious - and real at the same time! Going to a hospital meeting is about as "informing" as walking into a cage of orangutans! About all they do is spend time scratching one another's backs, and picking fleas. All the avid supporters of the glorious doctor, his favorite twins, and his personal preacher-man do is figure what kind of professional snow-job they are going to foist on Blythe citizens. Oh, granted, periodically Trina slams the gavel on Cat McLain, to appear she is holding to some kind of rules, and then the doctor gives a monologue or two, and then they go back into the night to do their real work. I understand they have been gathering at the hospital to run it themselves. Probably trying to dig up potential dirt they can propagandize resulting in "blame" for anybody but themselves. C'mon, folks. Let's do our own digging for a couple of REAL caring Blythe people to run against these hypocrites in three short months.

Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013
Article comment by: Fearful Employee #2

To I'm Confused!
One item of info that was left out was the gd. Dr. filed restraining orders to halt the sugical services agreement and a transportation policy. Then the twins and their gofer voted to resind these agreements. Hence...there went the solution to the helipad, the federal EMTALA law and our town to have specialist surgeons(Ear Nose and Throat, orthopedic, gastroenterologists etc) Don't the people in this town that can't travel out of town deserve this? If the doctors and the newly elected board and their side kick what what is best for the patients/people of Blythe, why did they make this imporvement to our hospital go away? Maybe the people in Blythe need to ask the twins and their gofer. Greed!!!!


Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013
Article comment by: @ i am confused

That you are, Confused!
You most not have been going to the meeting in the past or you get your propaganda from 007 and the twins.
The change in transport policy and exclusive transport change was to bring the Hospital into compliance with federal EMTLA law.
Not sure now if you are in compliance now!
The heliport is a whole different issue that would have been resolved by the transport company.
Confuse you more?


Posted: Saturday, March 2, 2013
Article comment by: Karen Johnson

A patient has to be loaded and unloaded twice, transported through traffic (even with a siren) and there is only ten minutes difference?

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: i am confused

I thought that the ex CEO and the last board said that we needed an exclusive on transportation due to compliance issues. Now it seems that there were remedies and actions that could have been easily taken back in October by the last board to rectify the situation. Why was none of this done then? Why were we told that this exclusive was what was required to fix the problem. Seems starnge that it was not done then. Makes you think that they took a page from the Obama playbook of never letting a crisis go to waste. I am beginning to wonder if it was a kill two birds with one stone strategy. Fix the helipad and run then candidate Sartin out of town. Seems like politics got played with peoples lives by those in charge back in October and we as a community fell for it hook, line and sinker

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: @ Mike Evans

Heads up! Doc,Hudson and DeConinck Besties.



Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: @Catalina McLain

Good plan, Cat! If real fairness is the object, you must be present. Otherwise, Hudson will destroy any movement in the discussion. Praying for God's help.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: agree w/disgusted

and i'm gonna be sick too - eating way toooo much baloney. Glad pvvt is documenting - so we can all remember it was sandy who hired the ceo & gave him the extravagant salary - as long as he was renting her house. pvvt will be the one who reminds us years into the future about the twins along with the doc and their greed. This dr has been the problem for years and thanx to the dumb voters these board members will take us all down.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: About Time

It's about time someone else got involved in this mess. More people need to get involved that are not connected to the board or their businesses.

Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013
Article comment by: Catalina McLain

To Mike Evans:
For the sake of fairness I am willing to join this group in efforts to resolve these transporation issues. Let me know when the meeting is. Thank you for stepping up to help our town.



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