STEELE CREEK -- The new year could bring area health care to an entirely new level -- like, say, 1,000 feet.
Carolinas HealthCare System hopes to bring a helicopter landing area to its emergency care facility at N.C. 160 and 49 in Steele Creek, set to open by late summer, by XX. Rezoning requests vary in length depending on the submitted plans, impact on the area and public comment, though a public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at 600 E. 4th St., Charlotte.
"There's a brief period just before the meeting if anyone wishes to speak for or against the plan," said staff analyst Claire Lyte-Graham of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department office of land management. "They need to sign up."
She said the rezoning request process typically takes four months with city staff making a recommendation following the public hearing to Council, which will make the final decision.
Kevin McCarthy, spokesman for Carolinas HealthCare, said the original plans for the 16.3-acre medical complex called for physician offices and other basic medical services. The helipad concept came following changes calling for 22,500-square-foot healthplex, complete with 24-hour emergency care and a host of services including 64-slice CT scan, X-ray, ultrasound, observation beds and laboratory services.
"As our plans evolved into creating a 24-hour freestanding emergency department, we felt like it would be a good addition to the site," McCarthy said. "It made sense."
Carolinas HealthCare currently has three helicopters -- one in Charlotte, and one each in upstate South Carolina and in northern North Carolina. The Charlotte helicopter likely would be used most often, transporting patients as needed from the Steele Creek healthplex to Charlotte for care.
"We rely on the first responders on the ground to determine whether they think someone is critical enough to warrant using it," McCarthy said. "If it's not an immediate, life-threatening situation, we would most likely be able to transport someone downtown using our ambulances."
McCarthy expects the rezoning process to go smoothly since the area already is zoned for the healthplex, and because he said the city zoning staff requested Carolinas HealthCare submit an application for the project. The zoning application shows the helipad located on the southern edge of the property, just west of RiverGate, beside land set aside for a greenway and boundary buffer.
The $20 million healthplex is among a growing trend of similar facilities planned for outlying regions near the main Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, and those facilities, too, may feature helipads.
"That would be our hope," McCarthy said. "Bringing emergency care to the outlying areas may require certain services for ill people to be brought to the main hospital for particular care."
Want to know more?
Carolinas Medical Center-Steele Creek, a 22,500-square-foot healthplex to be located at 13460 Steelecroft Pkwy., is expected to be complete by late summer. For more information, visit cmc-steelecreekorg.