Madison Valley Medical Center and private donors have come together to provide Madison Valley with a helicopter pad that will deliver safe access to air ambulances.
MVMC’s original site called for a helicopter pad, but that hasn’t been something the medical center could make happen till this year.
Thanks to generous private donors, the MVMC broke ground on the north side of the medical center for the helicopter pad, with completion scheduled later this summer.
MVMC had already teamed up with Summit air ambulances located in Bozeman to provide Madison Valley with air ambulance services, but the helicopters could only land on the highway since there is no helicopter pad in the area, which created a variety of issues.
The highway would have to be shut down, which required law enforcement and fire department personnel to make that happen. Traffic would be backed up for long periods of time since a patient has to be stable enough to be loaded into the helicopter.
Power lines on either side of the highway also pose a safety hazard for landing helicopters on the highway. If Ennis had one of its windy days, helicopter crews couldn’t make the landing.
“It was nerve racking when helicopters would land in the highway,” said Chris Mumme, Madison County’s director of emergency services. “We never wanted to see our rescue crews involved in an accident with the helicopters. This landing will keep everyone safer.”
The construction of the helipad would create a safe landing area for air ambulances. In turn, the landing area would free up emergency personnel and law enforcement to respond to the scene of an accident or other incident.
“We need to have a safe landing area,” said MVMC’s Chief of Staff R.D. Marks. “Closing the highway took time and we are dealing with time-restricted needs, which directly impacts patients. Every time you move a patient, you run risks.”
In March of this year, the MVMC expressed a need for private funding and Gerry and Sarah Gerron immediately stepped forward as donors for the project.
“We felt when the opportunity came along, the helipad was the missing piece in the health care puzzle here in Ennis,” said the Gerrons. “We realized we would have an impact on saving lives and it was too compelling. We made the decision to help immediately.”
John Bishop, the CEO of MVMC, said it was important to the hospital that the Gerrons feel a sense of ownership with the helipad construction project. Bishop explained the Gerrons have been involved every step of the way.
The helipad will be a 40 feet by 40 feet concrete pad with landscaping and fencing around the landing.
Summit Ambulances will be able to pick up patients and transport them to various higher-level medical facilities based on the patient’s needs. That means the air ambulances are not restricted to one hospital but can transport patients to the medical facility with the best services relative to each patient’s situation.
Madison Valley Rural Fire Chief Shawn Christensen also addressed how the helipad will fit into the county and city emergency planning processes. Christensen said the helipad would be extremely valuable in the event of a multi-person accident. The MVMC has a limited capacity and the helipad could help prevent an overcrowded medical center.
The helipad also can act as a drop spot for supplies in case of a natural disaster or other large-scale disaster. The Forest Service, National Guard and other community agencies could access the landing pad and address a variety of needs for different situations from car accidents to natural disasters to wildfires. The pad will be large enough that a Blackhawk military helicopter could land safely on it.
“This is a big step in the right direction for our county,” said Christensen.