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    March 2016
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Commentary – Senator Kahele on Safety Concern of Hilo Medical Center Helipad

On behalf of our constituents within the first senatorial district of Hilo and all of Hawai‘i Island, I am writing to request Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) Board to discontinue its Agreement for Purchase of Goods and Services (APGS) with Hawai‘i Life Flight, Inc. (HLF), signed on April 10, 2013 which allows permanent parking on the helipad of Hilo Medical Center (HMC) and has presented numerous safety of flight issues for other operators in the area.


Although the agreement allows HLF to park their aircraft to one side of the helipad and the space meets the minimum requirements to do so – it has still proven, on numerous occasions, to present a safety concern.

The U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area Department of Emergency Services has reported that on two occasions within the past year, several of their Blackhawk Medevac helicopters have been prevented from landing safely during training patrols and other exercises because of HLF’s permanent occupation of the helipad. On October 29, 2015 an emergency transport helicopter arrived at the HMC helipad to find the HLF helicopter still on the helipad. As an HLF employee was securing the aircraft, the Medevac Blackhawk was in its final approach and unfortunately was forced to land with the HLF aircraft only partially secured.  The Engine Company Captain on scene reported a “near miss” incident with both aircraft being on the helipad at the same time.

Additionally, the County of Hawai‘i Fire Department which maintains two helicopters for emergency medical services has reported that on three separate incidents their Chopper 2 aeromedical helicopter has landed at the helipad with the pad being occupied by HLF.

One way to resolve this issue is to keep the helipad vacated and available at all times. This would ensure a safer overall operation.  It is our understanding that the aforementioned APGS is up for renewal on April 10, 2016 and that last fall representatives of the U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area met with HHSC’s Board of Directors and raised these safety of flight issues with them.  At that time, there was an indication that HHSC’s board did not intend to renew the agreement.

Because of these safety of flight issues which could have resulted in serious loss of life to patients, crew and bystanders on the ground – as well as loss of necessary medical equipment funded by and provided for the use of our community – we support your efforts to preserve necessary landing space at HMC to allow for a safer environment and improved access.

Thank you for your leadership in keeping the health and safety of our residents HHSC’s top priority and we look forward to working with you towards a positive solution.

Hau‘oli ka mana‘o,

Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele, Senate District 1-Hilo

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