LOWVILLE — The first helicopter to use the Lewis County General Hospital landing zone did so as part of a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony held on Tuesday afternoon.
Community members, hospital employees, nursing home residents, emergency services personnel and officials on the county, state and federal levels watched as a red and white Mercy Flight Central chopper angled in for a landing outlined by the bright blue of the sunny, clear sky.
Elizabeth A. Woods, who contributed part of the money to fund the landing zone in honor of her late husband, John B. Woods, and hospital board member Charles W. Truax Jr., were all smiles as they disembarked from the chopper after the whirling blades came to a halt.
Construction on the landing zone began in September, however, the flat rectangular space was first prepared 10 years ago, hospital Chief Executive Officer Gerald R. Cayer said in his address.
Up to this point, Mercy Flight and LifeNet helicopters bringing urgent medical cases from around the county to the hospital landed in the large parking lot at the Center for Business, formerly the Climax building, about a quarter of a mile up the road.
Mr. Cayer said a number of emergency services, including the fire department, an ambulance and the police, had to be there for each landing to bring the patient the short distance to the hospital.
The drain on services and expenses involved will be avoided going forward with the landing zone about 50 feet from the hospital, shaving about 30 minutes off the time it takes to get a patient life-saving care, Mr. Cayer said.
According to the Hospital Foundation Executive Director JoAnne Rhubart, the total cost of the project stayed within the $12,000 budget, some of which came from Mrs. Woods with the Foundation supplying the rest.
“Money brought in from our Great Pumpkin Run was earmarked for this project,” Mrs. Rhubart said, “The Hospital Foundation was thrilled to support this. It was a unanimous vote in favor for us.”
Mrs. Woods was on the hospital foundation board for six years.
Before his passing in 2012, Mr. Woods served on the hospital’s board and was the chairman of the foundation board.
A dedication plaque will be hung on the landing zone’s fence in his honor.
Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush, R-Black River; Jim Durkish, representative for state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome; and Mary Jo Richards, representative for Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, attended the ceremony along with a number of legislators.