Air ambulances arriving at Integris Canadian Valley Hospital now have solid ground upon which to land.
Officials with the Yukon hospital officially opened its helipad on Wedneday.
Rex Van Meter, president of the hospital, was joined by more than 50 people to cut a ribbon on the $200,000 helipad.
The helipad was the result of a significant investment from the hospital combined with more than $60,000 raised locally over the past year.
The helipad is officially open, Van Meter said.
Previously, any time a medical helicopter needed to land at the 75-bed facility, it was forced to set down on a grassy area south of the emergency room.
The last helicopter to land in that area occurred Monday because the helipad was not officially open.
“We can accept more patients, and ultimately, it is a safety issue. As flight crews come in, we want to ensure the safety of the flight crew and the patient they are delivering and our staff,” Van Meter said.
Before the helipad was constructed, the use of the hospital by medical helicopter crews was determined, in part, by weather conditions.
“The soggy, muddy conditions impacted our ability to land, and if they did land, getting the patients from the helicopter to the sidewalks was impacted,” Van Meter said. “This ensures it is a safe process.”
Van Meter said the opening of the helipad also means the Yukon facility will be designated as a hospital with helicopter capabilities.
“Today, they are bypassing us to go to another hospital because of the less-than-desirable landing conditions,” he said.
Dr. Jim Davis, the director of emergency services for the hospital, said the helipad will be of great benefit to Integris Canadian Valley.
“We take some Level II traumas,” Davis said. “We take a lot of that traffic in, and some of the patients need to be transferred by helicopter. If the ground is soft, we can’t take those patients.”
“It is imperative that we have this. It helps us transition into that metropolitan hospital that we really are.”
Yukon hospital chief takes on new role
When Rex Van Meter helped cut the ribbon on a new helipad at Integris Canadian Valley Hospital on Wednesday, it was among his last duties as the hospital’s president.
Van Meter’s last day with the hospital was Friday as he transitions to becoming the president of Integris’ latest acquisition — Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City.
Integris is set to take control of the hospital on Monday at 12:01 a.m.
Van Meter’s first day as president also will be Monday.
He plans to remain active in Yukon. His children attend school in the Yukon School District and he is president of the Yukon School Board. He plans to continue that duty, he said.
“This has been my home for 6½ years. We’ve had a lot of growth here,” Van Meter said.
“The hospital has been very successful with the team we have, from the governing board to the quality of physicians we have on staff and those we’ve recruited in,” Van Meter said.
He also pointed to the quality of staff who work with patients every day.
“The caregivers we have provide such great quality and satisfaction to our patients. Our administration team is pretty special. We have been able to build this facility and grow this facility. We have been able to achieve a lot of milestones here with that complete team,” Van Meter said.
However, the opportunity to expand his career will be a challenge.
Deaconess is licensed for 236 beds while the Yukon hospital is licensed for 76.
Van Meter said his biggest challenge will be to ensure that in the future, each of those beds is filled despite being less than a mile from the parent hospital, Integris Baptist.
“Professionally, I am looking forward to that next challenge. It is kind of nervous and scary to go and make the next move because this is going so well here. But from a career standpoint, that facility is a little over twice as big as Yukon,” Van Meter said.
Teresa Gray, who is Integris Canadian Valley’s vice president of patient care services, has been selected as Van Meter’s replacement. She begins her new role on Monday.
Van Meter said she has been preparing for the role for several years.