'Helipad Truly About Medical Needs of Wider Regional Community,' Overlook Chairman Says

94 percent of patients seeking stroke-related care this year came from outside of Summit.

Dear Editor, 

As many readers are already aware, Overlook Medical Center recently filed an application with the New Jersey Department of Transportation, seeking approval to build a helipad designed to expedite patient access to its premier Neuroscience Department. The hospital filed its application with the Department of Transportation after its prior variance application was rejected by the Summit Board of Adjustment—whose review was the necessary first step in obtaining a helipad license.   

Within the community of Summit there has been some rumbling that this latest action is a case of the hospital looking to circumvent the “ruling” of the town. Overlook made tremendous efforts to ensure the concerns of community residents were addressed. Unfortunately, those efforts continue to be lost in the debate. 

Overlook is willing to put restrictions on the volume of flights and other aspects of the use of the helipad. This position has been made clear to neighbors who are concerned about the impact on the community. Residents in opposition to the helipad remain unwilling to accept the occasional flight, even in the face of life threatening situations. 

In reality, Overlook’s request is not a Summit issue, but a regional transportation and medical one. While some residents may see the City of Summit Zoning Board’s decision as the final word, I wonder if they have carefully considered the fact that Summit residents already enjoy timely and immediate emergency access to Overlook Medical Center’s award winning Neuroscience Institute. At issue is the medical care of those who don’t live just down the street. 

As of mid-November, only 35 Summit residents came to Overlook’s Emergency Department for stroke-related care this year (that’s 6% of Overlook Medical Center’s emergency stroke population), whereas 572 (94%) individuals came from outside of Summit. In addition to those stroke patients who come to the Emergency Department, an additional 237 patients were transferred to Overlook’s neuro intensive care unit from other hospitals. Of those, 30 (that’s three per month) were transported by air from hospitals more than 20 miles away. Those air transfers are required to land in neighboring towns, thereby adding critical time to life-saving treatment. The helipad is truly about the medical needs of the wider regional community-one that the NJ DOT is in a much better position to assess, given the lives at stake. 

Robert E. Mulcahy, III
Chair, Overlook Medical Center Advisory Board
Board of Trustees, Atlantic Health System 
J Richter December 17, 2013 at 09:44 AM
Mulcahy's comment that this is "ultimately not a Summit issue but a regional and medical transportation issue" ignores the fact that those helicopters will fly over a very densely populated town and land on top of a highly visible site in a high traffic area, for both cars and pedestrians AND low flying aircraft circling on their way to Newark Airport. The effect of one of those machines crashing would indeed be very relevant to Summit residents. If a helicopter has a machine malfunction, the emergency plan is for it to attempt an emergency landing at Summit Middle School. This means, if an engine conks out, a pilot needs to "auto fly" the aircraft without an engine and attempt to make a landing at a municipal school in a densely populated residential neighborhood. The hospital seems very willing to overlook the high number of crashes that occur per year in medical aviation, and the potential distractions to pedestrians and motorists caused by a helicopter landing overhead in a very high traffic area, where several pedestrians have been hit by cars and car accidents have already occurred. While Overlook makes "assurances" that they will limit the number of flights a month, the fact brought out at the many zoning hearings is that once the helipad is in place, the hospital has no legal requirement to the community to limit the number of flights. Indeed, Atlantic Health, which owns Overlook, has a track record of installing a helipad at Morristown Hospital and assuring the residents it would be used 2 to 5 times a month, and now flights there exceed 800 per year. The residents in Morristown found that despite the promises of the hospital, they had absolutely no redress to make the hospital do what it had promised. And finally, Mulcahy's comment that Summit residents have not carefully considered the benefit to those outside of the community is patronizing and insulting to the community at large. The community engaged in a protracted investigation of the hospital's request for a helipad and its effects on the community, with background and testimony considered over eighteen sessions of zoning board meetings. Testimony was provided by many expert witnesses on both sides. At the end of the day, the zoning board spent a great deal of time and energy to make this decision, after weighing ramifications to the hospital, and the needs of the community at large - the latter of which it seems the hospital is not so good at appreciating. Summit has been one of the most philanthropic communities I have known. Many members of the community support the hospital in a variety of ways including fundraising. The people I know, myself included, who decided to protest the hospital's proposed helipad did not do so lightly, but after careful examination of the issues. To uniformly label the residents as ignorant, selfish and inconsiderate of others outside the community is to ignore our track record of supporting this hospital and accommodating its needs, even when it has been an inconsiderate and oblivious neighbor to the needs of those who live nearby. The hospital seems very focused on the very small numbers of individuals who would be served by the helipad, and deliberately ignoring ANY of the potential effects on the larger community. Perhaps if Mr. Mulcahy lived here, he'd have more sympathy and appreciation for the potential ramifications to the individuals and community caused by this helipad that he and Overlook currently are very happy to ignore.
Michael S. Dzikowski January 13, 2014 at 02:49 PM
Mr.Robert E. Mulcahy,III, To avoid any more distorted statistics, please have your staff accurately disclose the TOTAL stroke population which cannot be calculated as you "forgot" to include those patients "transferred from hospitals ≤20 miles" (less than or equal to twenty miles away) in your report. Please submit a "mean, median, mode" milage radius analysis which must have already been prepared for management. Additionally, a break down by ≤5, ≤10, ≤15, ≤20, ≤25, ≤30, ≤35, ≤40, ≤45 and >45 miles will permit an proper assessment of patients' medical NEEDS vs. Atlantic Health's WANTS. Thank you....Mike Dzikowski
Michael S. Dzikowski January 16, 2014 at 10:53 AM
Another 9 dead as an experienced EC-135 Eurocopter pilot attempts an emergency forced landing and crashes THROUGH THE ROOF of a Glasgow, Scotland Pub in a densely populated area on 12/03/2013. We need to stop this Overlook Helipad! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-25181604
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 01:28 PM
I believe Dr.John Vigorita to be a good man and excellent pediatrician. He has graciously helped me understand health issues with my grandchildren over the years. I believe Dr. James Gardner to be an expert plastic surgeon. I also believe Dr. John Halperin to be an expert neurosurgeon in his Overlook, Morristown and Mt. Sinai (New York) practices. But, while reading these doctors' letters of support for the Overlook Rooftop Helipad, I realized that these three men of science have two very important things in common: 1) They have an understandably biased allegiance to their boss, Alan Lieber (President of Overlook) who is a businessman, not a man of science or helicopter pilot, and, 2) They have absolutely no understanding nor any interest in learning the dangers of running a helicopter operation on the roof of a hospital with insufficient emergency landing space!... The solution to this debate is to simply upgrade Morristown's CT Scan equipment (to a 320 Slice Scan like Overlook's from the current 64 Slice Scan). The Atlantic Health neurologist team is already there! The helipad is already there - problem solved! We have read Summit Councilman, Pat Hurley's (a former combat Navy Helicopter Pilot) professional objections to this helipad. As a veteran U.S. Army & Marine Corps Helicopter Instructor Pilot, I too strongly object to this rooftop helipad. I have accomplished many medevac missions flying in and out of dangerous landing zones to save lives. Sadly, I have also evacuated crew members and passengers who were badly burned or did not survive helicopter crashes. This is something you doctors totally disregard - the flight crews, patients and residents surrounding the densely populated Overlook rooftop! I find this shameful. Dr. Gardner, how dare you call us "selfish, and irresponsible". Trust me. We know about helicopters, helipads and saving lives. We'll come to you for your input if we need to learn more on liposuction and breast augmentation.... Here's some links to educate yourselves on our safety concerns. There is a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board Database site: http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/index.aspx This site will show you with various screens, how many helicopter accidents occur in whatever timeframe you select. e.g., For the ten year period 1/1/2004 through 12/31/2013 there were 136 accidents (non-scheduled helicopter flights; Part 135 for Air Taxi, Charter, Medical Service). 40 accidents (29%) resulted in fatalities ranging from 1 to 10, totaling 141 dead. PHI, Inc., the operator of Atlantic Health's three (3) helicopters, had 3 accidents (one with 8 fatalities from a bird strike!). That's 1.18 fatalities per month; 104 fatalities per 100 accidents. 23% of the accidents were in Eurocopters, the manufacturer of Atlantic Health's fleet. Please get the CT Scan upgrade for Morristown and stop all this foolishness! Please.... Sincerely, Mike Dzikowski http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwddjutGEKY http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1RmVqS1lu0
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 01:29 PM
The EC135 Police Helicopter crash in Glasgow on 11/29/2013 now totals 10 fatalities. Of the 32 people injured, 10 remain in hospital. Prince Charles has visited the survivors and rescuers to give thanks.. Apart from this Glasgow crash, Bond Air Services grounded its fleet of EC135 helicopters. The Scottish ambulance service said, "The safety of patients and air ambulance staff is the number one priority and Bond has taken the decision following a reported technical fault on one of the company's EC135s operating OUTSIDE Scotland! Has PHI, Inc. and Atlantic Health taken the same precautions? "In May, 2012 Bond grounded its EC135 models used by the Scottish ambulance service after receiving a safety warning about the aircraft's lower hub shaft flange. They all returned to service soon afterwards". http://article.wn.com/view/2013/12/07/Mourners_gather_for_funeral_of_pilot_who_died_in_Glasgow_hel/#/related_news http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/12/glasgow-helicopter-crash-operator-grounds-fleet http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/30/glasgow-pub-crash-helicopter-grounded-safety-rotor
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 01:30 PM
12/12/2013 Air ambulances across the UK have had to share helicopters after the operator of the model involved in the Glasgow crash grounded its entire fleet on safety grounds. Bond Air Services suspended flights for all 38 of its Eurocopter EC135 T2 helicopters worldwide after a fuel system warning light came on in an aircraft used by the North West Air Ambulance on Wednesday. Sixteen of the helicopters are being used as air ambulances in the UK. Fatalities grew to 10 with 10 of 32 injured bystanders still in the hospital. The helicopter ambulance service said: "The safety of patients and air ambulance staff is the number one priority and Bond has taken the decision following a reported technical fault on one of the company's EC135s operating OUTSIDE Scotland. In May 2012, Bond grounded its EC135 models used by the Scottish ambulance service, Strathclyde police and the Northern Lighthouse Board after a safety warning about cracks in the aircraft's lower hub shaft flange. They all returned to service soon afterwards. Has Atlantic Health's PHI, Inc. operator taken all necessary precautions? Where's attorney Bart Sheehan now, who boasted at the hearings Atlantic Health's EC135s had TWO engines...we shouldn't worry?! Rooftops are bad places to have heliports in densely populated areas Bart! End of story.... http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/12/glasgow-helicopter-crash-operator-grounds-fleet
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 01:36 PM
I don't know what's in those two big white tanks beneath the Overlook rooftop near the the Morris Avenue entrance. Surely it's nothing flammable or explosive like oxygen near a heliport?! Then again,,,, if you look closely at Atlantic Health's Morristown Helipad (a Trauma Center servicing even larger jet fueled helicopters) you'll see their "Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center"(HBOT) is about 55 yards to the southeast! "HYPERBARIC OXYGEN THERPY (HBOT), a ... treatment that delivers OXYGEN AT MUCH HIGHER THAN NORMAL ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE....Unbelievable!!!... http://www.atlantichealth.org/morristown/our+services/hyperbaric+oxygen+therapy
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 02:09 PM
While we wait on Mr. Mulcahy or someone else at Atlantic Health to respond,,,, to anything,,, with FACTS, listen to how Ms. Laura Karr and NBC TV in Arizona went after PHI AirEvac Helicopter Service (Atlantic Health's operator) for charging her $32,741 for a totally unnecessary 20 minute flight AGAINST HER WILL! She was treated overnight and charged another $17,000. That's $49,741 total for services she did not want! Embarrassed PHI Air Medical officials would not answer specific questions about the decision to transport a patient who declines treatment. What's AtlanticHealth's policy?... Mr. Mulcahy, we're still waiting on an ACCURATE breakdown of your submitted transfer patients statistics. Simply disclose your last four (4) filings to the NJ Dept. of Health, your "EMS-27 Quarterly Reports for Air Medical Units". Official Atlantic Health flight information should all be there. Thank you for your candor & transparency in this important matter. http://www.azcentral.com/business/call12foraction/articles/20131116air-evac-patient-transport-protests-call12.html
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 02:11 PM
Jan 14, 2014 - Another Eurocopter EC135 Air Ambulance crashes in Norway. 2 Crew fatalities; 1 Injured truck driver on ground. http://helihub.com/2014/01/14/14-jan-14-eurocopter-ec135p2-buskerud-norway-2f/ Link to video of crash http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/artikkel.php?artid=10149856
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 02:14 PM
People have to become more aware of the dangers in "stressing" helicopters' many moving parts to make steep approaches and maximum power take-offs on small rooftops with no level, unobstructed land nearby to autorotate (land without engine power) in the event of an emergency. There is absolutely NO REASON why a pilot should BY DESIGN, be making a dangerous approach or take-off at a hospital! None! It's tough enough trying to land in confined areas or turbulent pinnacles (high landing zones) to pick up TRAUMA victims. Air taxiing patients between hospitals to a dangerous rooftop is ridiculous given the facts in this Overlook matter. See the link to Helihub with recent Eurocopter (Same helicopter manufacturer as Overlook's operator, PHI, Inc.) accidents around the world. (12 accidents since December, 2013!) http://helihub.com/tag/accidents+AS350/
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 03:17 PM
The NJDOT need take note! Atlantic Health misleadingly claims, "As New Jersey’s leading provider of Neuroscience care, Overlook houses the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute (ANI), which serves as the hub for the New Jersey Stroke Network, a group of hospitals treating 40% of the state’s stroke patients"....Wait a minute! ANI is a "sum of the parts institute". It is an asset composed of marvelous physicians & medical staff, sophisticated equipment and safe facilities. It is NOT a simple Summit LOCATION! Their 40% counts the TOTALITY of ALL its "hub & spoke" revenue sharing, "introducing client/hospital" relationships. It includes its own sister affiliates, Newton Medical Center (not ranked), and New Jersey's #1 TOP 10 STROKE FACILITY, MORRISTOWN MEDICAL CENTER! Morristown has always had access to the SAME neurosurgeons as Overlook but, with a Trauma Center Helipad already in operation! Competitor, St. Barnabas is ranked #2 with a Helipad; Overlook is ranked #3; Hackensack is ranked #4 with a Helipad; Robert Wood Johnson is #5 with a Helipad. Fortunately, we have absolutely no shortage of care for "life threatening situations"!... I also noted that Morristown was ranked #2 in "Patient Satisfaction". Overlook did not make the top 10! The "Patients' Room & Bathroom Kept Clean" category, ranked Morristown #5; Again, Overlook was not ranked in the top 10! Maybe you could re-focus on your core services Mr. Lieber? Mr. Mulcahy, please withdraw your appeal for this truly dangerous, unnecessary, EXTRA rooftop helipad for ANI. Regain your credibility in this state. Try to remember that we are a region yes, but a region composed of intelligent individuals, families, communities, THEN regions. Summit has a definite say in its own future. Institutional bullying will not help Atlantic Health in the long run at all... Do no harm! http://www.castleconnolly.com/insidehospitals/results2013/
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 03:25 PM
To borrow some from Overlook's Head of Plastic Surgery, Dr. James Gardner, I too say, "To those who still stand steadfast in their silly support of this rooftop helipad, I ask you simply to think reasonably about the lives that may be saved, injuries avoided and the many, many families surrounding Overlook that stand to be dangerously impacted by this rooftop heliport... Then, imagine yourself in their situation".... Can the orchestrated, contributing "Letter to the Editor" doctors , Messrs. Lieber, Mulcahy or Atlantic Health's mute PR staff reasonably advise us on the current status of Atlantic Health's EC135 helicopter fleet? As Atlantic Health well knows, major maintenance requiring the grounding of a fleet is a very material problem requiring complete disclosure. You no doubt, prudently amended your NJDOT appeal as a safety matter to avoid embarrassing the Commission. Eurocopters have recently been plagued with maintenance and grounding concerns abroad attributed to inaccurate fuel gauge indicators, cracks in the rotor assembly and,other transmission (main gear box) seizure concerns ( the biggest fear in any helicopter pilot's mind to include Atlantic Health's Captain, Steve Masi's!!). http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-12-12/helicopter-operator-grounds-part-of-uk-fleet-over-defect/
Michael S. Dzikowski January 30, 2014 at 03:29 PM
Atlantic Health's tactical appeal to the NJDOT for their rooftop helipad was taken directly from the Donald Trump playbook in Colts Neck, NJ. The 12/13/2012 Star-Ledger reported,"...A state appellate court approved a landing spot for Donald Trump's helicopter at his Colts Neck golf course Wednesday, ruling that the state’s transportation commissioner had the final say on okaying the project - despite local objections to the plan. Trump had applied for a variance to the Colts Neck Zoning Board last year. But the board denied it, saying their town code expressly prohibited helipads. However, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Monmouth County Planning Board separately gave their approvals, according to the unpublished appellate court decision. Trump then went to the state Department of Transportation commissioner, who green-lighted the plan in March, 2012.The town took that decision to the courts. After winning a denial of the plan at a trial court, the appellate court then flipped that decision, siding with the Department of Transportation – and Trump". I view a small rooftop in a densely populated area vs. a huge flat golf course to be far more dangerous!... As a side note, Trump sadly lost 3 of his high level casino executives (5 fatalities total) in a horrible rotor separation of his helicopter in flight which crashed near Forked River on 10/10/89. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/10/11/nyregion/copter-crash-kills-3-aides-of-trump.html


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