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UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Helipad

Imagine delivering a baby with devastating birth defects far from any hospital that can perform the surgery your newborn needs to survive. Come February, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco will be home to the city's only medical helipad, making advanced, lifesaving care possible for critically ill newborns, children and pregnant women from outlying areas.

The helipad will cut back on transportation time — crucial for patients in life-threatening situations — and lessen the potential for accidents en route.

Located on the UCSF Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building's roof at the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, it will receive patients on average once or twice per day, or about 40 times monthly. More than 80 percent of trips will take place between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Our new helicopter, Bear Force One, will typically approach the hospital from the east by flying over San Francisco Bay and will depart the same way. On windy days when departure to the west is necessary, the helicopter will fly over Interstate 280 or nonresidential streets to minimize noise for residents.

We spent several years working with our future neighbors to address their noise concerns. As a result of community feedback, we shifted the helipad location north and installed an elevator shaft south of the landing pad to deflect sound from the Dogpatch neighborhood.

Medical helicopter transport in the U.S. has an excellent safety record. Between 1991 and 2007, there were 8 million flights, and no serious injuries or deaths of anyone outside the helicopter.

In addition to saving patients' lives, the helipad likely would play a vital role aiding disaster response in San Francisco and the Bay Area during a regional emergency.