By Daniel Meyer

As part of its ongoing mission to ensure that patients and their families always come first, and as a way to cope with our region’s inclement weather conditions during the winter months, Mercy Flight of Western New York is constructing a new hangar behind Bertrand Chaffee Hospital on East Main Street in the Village of Springville.

Mercy Flight officials were joined on Tuesday, Aug. 18 by employees of Bertrand Chaffee Hospital and major stakeholders from various entities in the community at a groundbreaking ceremony for what will eventually be a 2,400-square-foot structure that will be located adjacent to an existing helipad at the hospital.

“We have experienced a tremendous partnership over the years and have been fortunate to have the confidence and support of the hospital and community since day one,” said Doug Baker, the founder and president of Mercy Flight of Western New York. “This project is a great fit and a win-win for Mercy Flight, the hospital and the communities we serve in the Southern Tier.”

The project will include the construction of a 60’ x 60’ pre-fabricated metal hangar with a helipad, an office and three bedrooms that can be used by on-call pilots and emergency medical personnel. The new hangar will allow Mercy Flight to strategically position its aircrafts and flight teams in closer proximity to rural communities such as Springville, Concord, Colden, Sardinia and Ellicottville to help improve response times in emergency transport situations.

“This expansion represents a relationship that has come full circle over the past 35 years,” said Nils Gunnersen, CEO of Bertrand Chaffee Hospital. “Every minute counts when we encounter patients with critical or life-threatening injuries, and we are so fortunate to have more rapid access to Mercy Flight’s highly skilled and practiced resources.”

Bertrand Chaffee Hospital was the site of Mercy Flight’s first transport in 1981, a fact that Darlene Schrantz, a registered nurse and the hospital’s director of patient care services, revisits on a daily basis at work and at home.

“My son, who was less than two months old at the time, needed to be transferred, but it was the same day as a Rolling Stones concert and traffic was heavy so ambulance service from Buffalo to Springville was limited,” recalls Schrantz. “Mercy Flight came through for us that day, just as they have for our community for the past 35 years. They are a long-standing supporter of our hospital and a tremendous partner. They have always been there for us.”

Regarded by many as one of the jewels among the region’s non-profits, Mercy Flight’s current fleet includes five helicopters that operate out of bases located in Buffalo, Batavia and Olean. The nonprofit, which is based in Cheektowaga, provides emergency air transport throughout Western New York as well as a portion of Pennsylvania and Southern Ontario.

Mercy Flight’s funding depends on community fundraising efforts and contributions that help pay for the transportation of patients on an aircraft that is always staffed with a pilot, flight nurse and flight medic.

“Like so many other people, I am grateful that Mercy Flight provides such a tremendous service to our community, and this new helicopter hangar is going to help us provide assistance to those who need it thanks to Mercy Flight’s efforts,” said Schrantz. “Speaking not only as a nurse but as a grateful mother, I owe a lot to Mercy Flight both personally and professionally.”

In addition to Baker and Schrantz, other speakers at Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony included Gary Eppolito, chairman of Bertrand Chaffee Hospital’s board of directors, and Marc Boies, director of flight operations for Mercy Flight.