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Hospital’s Helipad Is on a Path to Legality

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Acceding to complaints from critics that Garfield Medical Center has been landing helicopters illegally, Monterey Park officials have ordered the hospital to remove its helicopter pad.

But the pad apparently isn’t going anywhere. Even the city calls the notice a technicality, and officials say they are working with the hospital to make the pad legal.

City officials notified the hospital in an Oct. 3 letter to acting administrator Patrick Petre that the helipad is a “non-permitted use.” The letter asked the hospital to remove the helipad by Oct. 17.

Petre said he is working with city officials on a law that would exempt the hospital from the helicopter ban. In the meantime, he said, the hospital will do whatever is necessary to save patients’ lives, even if that means breaking the law.

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“Nobody wants blood on their hands,” Petre said Tuesday. “I’m going to be damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”

Vince Bisogno, a city code enforcement officer, said officials will propose a resolution to allow the hospital to keep using helicopters.

Until recently, city officials apparently forgot the helicopter ban, which was passed by the council in 1985 to block construction of a helipad at Union Bank, Bisogno said.

In 1989, the City Council adopted a $130 fee for the cost of sending fire and police to helicopter landings. Police and fire officials had been dispatched in case of accident for the three landings at the hospital this year.

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Earlier this year, resident Robert Lujan, a critic of the noise and nuisances associated with the hospital’s expansion, discovered the hospital was not paying the fee. When he asked for an explanation, city officials told him that fees were waived for emergency landings, such as when the hospital transports patients in life-threatening situations.

But later, Lujan found out about the 1985 law banning helicopters, and pressed city officials to explain how the hospital was allowed to have a helipad in the first place.


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