San Francisco Supervisors Approve Helipad at UCSF Mission Bay Hospital

July 29, 2009
News Office: Kate Schoen (415) 502-6397

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today (July 28, 2009) approved a resolution that allows for the operation of a helipad at the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, a state-of-the-art hospital complex for children, women and cancer patients scheduled to open in 2014. The resolution passed unanimously, by a vote of 11 to 0.

"We are so grateful that the people of San Francisco and the Board of Supervisors recognize the need for a medical helipad at Mission Bay and thank them for all the time and effort they invested in working with us," said Roxanne Fernandes, executive director of UCSF Children's Hospital. "This truly is a measure that will improve the delivery of critical care and, ultimately, save lives."

The helipad resolution was first reviewed by the City's Land Use and Economic Development Committee before going to the full Board for final approval. During a July 20, 2009, hearing, the Committee unanimously approved the measure and commended UCSF on its efforts to actively engage the public throughout the hospital planning process.

"I congratulate both UCSF and the community for working so well together on this project. It has provided a model of how to address the concerns of the immediate neighborhood and also meet the needs of other members of our broader community — in this case, the critically ill who need the specialized services offered at the hospital," said Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, the chairperson of the Land Use Committee who also sponsored the helipad resolution. Maxwell represents District 10 in San Francisco, which includes the site of the future hospital complex.

The Mission Bay helipad will be used to bring critically ill newborns, children and pregnant women to UCSF from outlying community hospitals that do not have the same level of specialized resources as UCSF, and therefore can not adequately respond when patients need the most advanced, life-saving care. Having a hospital-based helipad will not only reduce the time it takes to transport seriously ill patients, but also will minimize complications associated with the transporting process.

"The mission of UCSF Children's Hospital has always been to care for the children of San Francisco, the Bay Area and beyond, regardless of a family's income level or insurance status," Fernandes said. "A helipad will allow us to open our arms to more children and provide them with the highest level of pediatric care during those times when they need us most."

Helicopter access to the Mission Bay hospital complex will be limited to life-threatening situations and will require a physician's approval before the helicopter is dispatched. The helicopter will not be used for routine transport of stable patients or for moving patients from UCSF to other facilities. An estimated 500 helicopter trips will occur each year, or 40 per month, with more than 80 percent of the flights expected to take place between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

UCSF has worked closely with the community over the last two years on the design and development of the helipad and held several public meetings to answer questions about the project. In response to neighbors' feedback, UCSF relocated the helipad to the northernmost area of the medical center site to maximize distance from residential neighborhoods, and developed flight paths that are primarily over San Francisco Bay.

"This has been a model program of public outreach and consideration of public concerns, and I think people should look to this in the future as the kind of process that ought to take place when there are critical issues at stake," former city planning commissioner Dennis Antenore testified at the July 20 Land Use and Economic Development Committee hearing.

UCSF also worked with the community to develop a Residential Sound Reduction Program for Helicopter Operations that will provide funding for sound improvements, such as insulated windows and doors, to homeowners who live in close proximity to the hospital site and may be impacted by helicopter noise at a specified level, according to Cindy Lima, executive director of the Mission Bay Hospital Project.

"The sound reduction program demonstrates UCSF's commitment to the neighborhood by going above and beyond what other institutions have done. Their continual efforts to involve the community are admirable," said San Francisco resident Ryan Burns at the hearing. Burns lives less than a block from the medical center site.

The new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay is designed as a 289-bed integrated hospital complex that will include a children's hospital with emergency care and ambulatory care facilities, a women's hospital for cancer care and specialty surgery, a center for mothers and newborns, and a hospital for adult cancer patients. The sustainably designed facility will be strategically located adjacent to UCSF's existing biomedical research campus. This location will help foster new advances in medicine by encouraging collaboration among basic scientists, clinical researchers and physicians.

One of the nation's top children's hospitals, UCSF Children's Hospital creates an environment where children and their families find compassionate care at the healing edge of scientific discovery, with more than 150 experts in 50 medical specialties serving patients throughout Northern California and beyond. The hospital admits about 5,000 children each year, including 2,000 babies born in the hospital. Medi-Cal patients constitute more than half of the patient population.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. For further information, visit www.ucsf.edu.