Ron Biscaro at Cottage Hospital neighborhood meeting about helicopter noise

Paul Wellman

Ron Biscaro at Cottage Hospital neighborhood meeting about helicopter noise

Cottage Hospital ’Copters Still Taking Flak

Neighborhood Meeting Turns Heated as Accusations Fly

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
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The Tuesday night meeting between Cottage Hospital administrators and the hospital’s neighbors morphed into an airing of grievances — often impassioned — focused on Cottage’s new helicopter service, its effect on neighbors, and the nearby residents’ view that the hospital is unwilling to take their concerns seriously.

The air ambulance service, said Ron Biscaro, vice president of Cottage’s Housing and Real Estate Development, is intended for critically ill children, trauma patients, and stroke victims, and can be used by the county’s Search and Rescue team during medical emergencies. The hospital originally projected about two transports a week and, despite an initial surge in flights when the landing pad opened in February, is now seeing about that many trips per week.

“We think that burden is a justified burden,” Biscaro said. “We’re here to make people well. I’m happy to debate that.”

Neighbor Dana Schorr said the hospital isn’t being understanding. “They’re baiting us with the baby issue and with the trauma issue,” he said, adding his belief that Cottage’s main concern is revenue. “The hospital seems to have no interest in our safety, in our welfare, in our health.”

The majority of complaints stemmed from neighbors’ distrust of the administration and frustration with its apparent inability to regulate the number of transports or control the type of situations during which the service is used. Some residents complained about the nighttime flights, some grumbled that the service provided no benefit to them, and one woman expressed frustration that even uninsured patients can be transported via helicopter. Another woman said she felt that not all of the transports were “life-saving.” As a whole, the neighbors called for increased transparency and better communication.

“A little bit of information is a dangerous thing,” said area resident Sally Kingston, the director of College Bound Programs for Carpinteria Unified School District, who asked the administration to provide the neighbors with more data.

Attendee Celeste Barber chided people for complaining. “I’m hearing ‘noise,’ ‘noise,’ ‘noise.’ It’s to save lives,” she said to a chorus of groans, head shakes, and questions about her home address.

Todd Gutshall tried to appreciate both sides of the issue. “It’s great what you’ve done,” he said to Biscaro about the helicopter service. “But, knowing the greatness of it…it sounds like a case of, ‘If you build it, they will come.’”

Things got really heated when Biscaro alleged that a meeting — a gathering he called “a goodwill gesture” on behalf of the hospital — between administrators and the neighbor-organized Cottage Helicopter Task Force involved members of the Task Force threatening legal action against the hospital should their requests go unmet. Biscaro’s allegation was met with people screaming “Not true!” and “You’re lying!” and people storming out. The hospital, Biscaro said, will not meet with the Task Force again.

“There’s nothing we can do to make the helipad different,” conceded Biscaro, noting that the hospital will look into possibly getting a quieter type of helicopter. “We welcome suggestions that are reasonable.”

City Councilmember Cathy Murillo echoed Biscaro’s call for compromise. “We seem to be at a worse spot now instead of a better one,” she said. “Let’s not give up on finding common ground. The hospital’s here to stay, and we’re here to stay.”

The next public meeting will be in August.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Several people who attended that "meeting" debacle (or was I there too?) were just flabbergasted about how inept and hostile that allegedly smart person Ron Biscarro was. He needs to shut up for good. He was figuratively trying to suppress the neighborhood wildfire with high-octane gasoline. Next time they need to let one of the nice consultants earn her pay instead while there.

As for Celeste Barber quoted here and by other news stories, she does not even reside close to the Oak Park neighborhood and is a resident of San Andres Street at least a mile away. Cannot Biscarro and friends even get a local shill for them?

As for Sally Kingston, she is a true smart person but of course was speaking only as an individual, not a school employee despite the need for the Indy writer here to highlight that. Cottage corporation also does not own the helicopters as the article here implies.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2012 at 4:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There is no way to make these people happy. The helicopters are there to save lives, that's what the medical profession is charged to do. I know a 95 year old woman who has lived in the flight path of the Ventura County Hospital heliocopter pad for over 40 years and complaining would not even enter her mind. But then she is of the generation that considered the welfare of the community to be more important than selfish concerns. Do these people know how selfish and childish they sound. How can they not be embarrassed to whine in public about a few heliocopter flights a week over their homes. The folks who live in Ellwood and next the train tracks or the freeway tolerate much more noise and we don't hear them complaining. Time to get over it folks and time for Cottage to stop meeting with these whiners.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2012 at 5:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So you have the sound of a helicopter or an ambulance? The both have the same effect in the middle of the night so might as well go with the one that'll save a life.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2012 at 5:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Better transparency and communication would probably help the hospital's position a lot.

Some of the arguments in the article are downright funny:

- the hospital doesn't regulate the # of flights. So they are supposed to control the serious accidents or illnesses people in the community have?

- night flights. Since they are already controlling the # of accidents and illnesses, I guess they might as well make sure they also happen at a time that's convenient for everyone?

- flights provide no benefit to the residents. Okay, sign a waiver that says if you have an issue that would otherwise require chopper transport, you'll be taken by ambulance. If you die en route, c'est la vie!

- flights could transport the uninsured. Seriously? Someone said that? That has nothing to do with the flights and everything to do with the entire SYSTEM of healthcare. Whether you agree with the reform act or not, this portion of the issue should point out that something needs to change and it has nothing to do with choppers.

Again, maybe some of this would go away with better knowledge for the residents and communication about what the flights are used for and why.

I do not live in that area, and so my only vested interest in this is if I or my loved ones should have a serious issue and need quick transport, I will be eternally grateful if that helo ride saves their life!

cycleboy (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2012 at 6:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Is a video of this meeting available?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2012 at 6:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As I see it, Cottage has two choices: end the use of the super-expensive helipad and return to landing the copters remotely, or continue to use the helipad and hear the complaints of the neighbors. I highly doubt with the amount of money Cottage invested in the helipad that they are going to cease using it.

At the risk of sounding completely callous, I think residents living near Cottage need to get over it. They live near a hospital and this is what happens when you have a hospital that is charged with saving lives! What if it was YOUR love one in that copter? Would you be kvetching then? I hardly think so. I agree with Eckerman; there is no way to make these people happy. I don't live near the hospital (but I'm only a mile away), so yeah, it's easy for me to say. But, I work in the medical profession and I hate to think that people are so superficial that a few copters a week or day is so disruptive that they cannot think with compassion about the purpose of the copter.

As I see it, the neighbors of Cottage Hospital have two choices: put up or move out. Yeah, moving out is not so easy in a city as expensive as Santa Barbara. But hey, at least you get to live in a great city with a hospital that has a helipad! God/dog/whomever forbid the complainers ever need to use the helipad. And if/when they do, I wonder just how much they'll be complaining about it.

GDogMama (anonymous profile)
May 16, 2012 at 7:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It never fails to amazes me the stupidity of people. The Hospital tells the public that they estimate a total two flights a week but they know that that number is swollowable for those who don't do any research will believe because it 'sounds' better than the truth of two every hour or more.
Viewing a comparable Hospital that accepts Helo flights would have shown the true number of fights per day, week and month but no one checked, so now they need to shut-up and put-up.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2012 at 5:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This is a settled issue that was decided by zoning and the buyout of the other SB hospitals. Cottage WILL become a Level 1 Trauma Center in the near future, no matter what Cottage states publicly, so these flights will only increase and there is nothing that can be done about it. I wish these folks would face reality and instead go after Cottage for things they can change like sound walls around the Day Care facility etc.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2012 at 6:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A helipad is a neighborhood setting is an environmental impact if not a disaster. Politically connected Cottage Hospital processed this expansion application in record time. This project dumped several hundred millions of dollars of construction, temporary and permanent street closures, 2 massive parking garages (one charging @ $ 2.75 an hour), and this long term or forever environmental impact, the helipad. This project should have had a much more thorough review. Cottage did have alternatives.

At this point the neighbors should probably consider an environmental attorney (from out of town) and sue both the city and cottage. Modifications, restrictions and compensation will not come voluntarily. And at least one-head should roll in the planning department.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2012 at 6:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry DM but this mistake in planning started decades ago and filing a lawsuit against the city will be futile and simply cost more of OUR money to defend.
It sucks.
I do not like Cottage.
But these people need to start fighting battles that can be won or they will be frustrated for perpetuity.
The logical alternative that they intentionally passed on was to utilize the land at Goleta Valley years ago for the new complex. Cheaper. Almost no impact. Close to the airport. The list of benefits to building in Goleta goes on and on but I lost that argument years ago as well.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2012 at 8:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Neighbor Dana Schorr said the hospital isn’t being understanding. “They’re baiting us with the baby issue and with the trauma issue,” he said, adding his belief that Cottage’s main concern is revenue."

"Some residents complained about the nighttime flights, some grumbled that the service provided no benefit to them, and one woman expressed frustration that even uninsured patients can be transported via helicopter."

Now I can see why Cottage has an impossible task in trying to make these people happy.

Anyone see any confict in these two statements? Are they complaining that we have to take uninsured patients by helicopter, or are they complaining that Cottage doesn't care and it's all about the money?

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2012 at 2:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To address mr. McDermott's points:
"A helipad is a neighborhood setting is an environmental impact if not a disaster."

Is not paving over a creek also the same? (Measure Y)

" Politically connected Cottage Hospital.."

Isn't Veronica Meadows developer Mark Lee known for seeking political connections?

"At this point the neighbors should probably consider an environmental attorney (from out of town) and sue both the city and cottage. "

Maybe the residents of Alan Rd. or an environmental group could do the same re: Y.
There will definitely be lawsuits once that mud starts flowing down the hillside.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2012 at 3:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe they should consider buying a quieter helicopter???

Liana (anonymous profile)
May 18, 2012 at 8:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Difference between Flack and Flak.

ucsbstudent (anonymous profile)
May 18, 2012 at 8:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Corrected; thanks ucsbstudent.

webadmin (webadmin)
May 18, 2012 at 8:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

MickeyD, I am truly surprised that you would come out on the side of the wealthy property owners (by definition, if one owns property in SB, one is wealthy, right?) over the suffering people in desperate need of hospital care. Hardly true to your usual socialist beliefs.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
May 18, 2012 at 8:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Italiansurg: Cottage is already a level 2 trauma center, the only one between LA and the Bay area.

Bajades (anonymous profile)
May 21, 2012 at 8:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What people really should be protesting is the fact that there is only one level two trauma center between LA and SF.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 21, 2012 at 1 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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