The South Tower of Rapides Regional Medical Center is getting a new look.

Construction is under way on a new helipad atop the South Tower, which opened in 2008.

The helipad, to be built by Tudor Construction Co., of Alexandria at a cost of $1.9 million, will improve patient care in a couple of ways. First, it will allow patients to be transported directly from the helipad to the Emergency Department. Second, the new helipad will be able to accommodate larger aircraft.

“This is another way we are committed to improving patient care at Rapides Regional Medical Center,” said Becky Barnes, Chief Operating Office. “The new helipad will serve patients of the hospital and trauma program better by allowing them to be transported straight from the aircraft into the emergency department.”

Among the aircraft the new helipad will be able to accommodate are Black Hawk helicopters used by the military. In the past, they have had to land on the Red River levee. Patients in the Black Hawks then had to be transferred to ground transportation to be taken to the Emergency Department.

Currently, Rapides Regional hosts around 450 air landings a year. That number will increase with the new helipad. In addition to being able to accommodate the larger and heavier aircraft, the current helipad will remain in use, allowing for overflow. Also, the current helipad is built atop the cath lab at RRMC, allowing cardiac patients transported by air to have direct access to the cath lab.

An elevator dedicated solely for the new helipad will be constructed first. Once it is completed, work will take place on top of the South Tower. Construction is expected to be completed in September 2017. Patient care in the South Tower will not be impacted by construction.

“We have started construction, but you may not see much going on,” said Barnes. “We are currently staging, but in the next couple of weeks you will see a lot of activity.”

Due to the complicated task of building on top of the occupied South Tower, there will be periodic road and driveway closures on the RRMC campus during construction. The ambulance bay for the Emergency Department will not be impacted, and the Monroe Street entrance to the Rapides Heart Center parking garage will remain open during construction.