Emergency room doctors at Roper Hospital will be able to treat patients more quickly once a $1.8 million helipad on top of the hospitalís South Tower opens for air traffic next month.

Roper currently shares a helipad on top of the President Street parking garage with Medical University Hospital.

Dr. Patrick Kelly, an emergency department doctor for Roper St. Francis Healthcare, said transporting patients from the top of the parking garage to Roper Hospitalís emergency room adds several critical minutes to a patientís journey ó minutes that could be spent treating life-threatening conditions.

ďMinutes matter,Ē Kelly said.

The new helipad could shave up to 20 minutes off a patientís total travel time to the emergency room, Kelly said.

Kim Keelor, a spokeswoman for Roper, said the hospital system also accepts patients arriving by air transport at a helipad on its Mount Pleasant Hospital campus.

The Mount Pleasant Hospital helipad also is frequently used to transport patients to Roper Hospital.

ďIt is especially useful during daytime hours as patients needing time sensitive treatments can be delivered downtown more expediently by helicopter during periods of heavy traffic congestion on the roadways in Mount Pleasant,Ē Keelor said. Roper St. Francis Healthcare does not operate its own fleet of helicopters, but contracts with a private company to provide the service.

Funds for the new helipad were raised privately through donations. The site is under construction and is expected to be in use in February.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.