Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Looking for a good response

Med-Act places unit in De Soto with speed as goal

February 16, 2006

Kneeling on the carpet Friday in Johnson County Med-Act's new De Soto station, Anthony Sellen flipped through the contents of a bright blue bag with the familiarity of a construction worker digging in a lunch box for a coffee Thermos.

"In this compartment is the intubation kit," said Sellen, flipping the blue bag around and unzipping a compartment. "If I was at one of the other stations in the county, the bag would be organized the same way.

"I love my kits. Everything is organized as much as possible so we don't have to fumble around trying to find something."

A 24-hour paramedic advanced response unit has been stationed in De Soto since June 2004, said Med-Act Deputy Chief Dennis Sosna. First placed in the De Soto downtown fire station, it recently moved to its new and larger quarters in the expanded Johnson County Fire District No. 3 station on Kill Creek Road.

The De Soto unit is one of four PAR units in the county with the other three being stationed in western Shawnee, Gardner and Spring Hill, Sosna said. The goal of the units was to cut down Med-Act's response time in the county's less populated areas.

"It's a way to bring first response in a shorter period of time in the less populatedareas," he said. "They have the basic first-line equipment that is on the ambulance without the back-up supplies the ambulance has."

Dispatched from the Kill Creek station, the PAR paramedic could be on the scene in De Soto perhaps 10 minutes before an ambulance arrived from the nearest Med-Act station on 111th Street near Kansas Highway 7 in Olathe, Sosna said. The paramedic would use that time doing what paramedics in the ambulance would normally do to stabilize and prepare a patient for a trip in an ambulance, he said.

"The idea is you get all the preparatory things done and then when the ambulance arrives, you put the patient in the ambulance to go to the hospital," Sosna said.

He and other paramedics respond to calls with an SUV filled with equipment, Sellen said. But that with which paramedics will enter a home is contained in three bags, including the blue bag that bears the informal name of "five-minute bag."

"It has everything we'll need the first five or 10 minutes of a call," Sellen said.

The bag is stuffed with prepackaged kits designed for specific medical emergencies, Sellen said. Its contents include an intubation kit to clear airways and cardiac kit for heart attacks filled with everything from aspirin to nitroglycerin.

Also carried to the scene is a small pump that provides suction of airways needed in some trauma situations and an electronic monitor for electrocardiograms and measurements of oxygen saturation rates and blood pressure checks, Sellen said.

He didn't know how much it cost to equip a PAR unit, Sosna said. But it did take a considerable commitment to equip the units, set up the Kill Creek station with its vehicle bay and quarters with eating, sleeping, work and living arrangements needed for 24-hour coverage, he said.

"And there's the ongoing cost of providing paramedics for 24-hour service," Sosna said. "I can tell you for the De Soto expansion we did not increase number of paramedics to make that change," he said. "We simply depleted number of rotating paramedics to make that change. That was significant because we don't have anyone to fill in when someone goes on vacation or can't come to work."

Although it might not show up statistically because of the relatively low number of calls made by the PAR units compared to the ambulance teams placed in more urban areas, the PAR units have helped Med-Act make progress toward its goal of providing service to 90 percent of its calls within nine minutes, Sosna said. That was common standard used by cities and such organizations as the American Heart Association to track response times, he said.

Placing a PAR unit in De Soto also enhanced training and preparedness, Sosna said.

"It gives you a paramedic interacting with the fire crew and training with the fire crews," he said. "That paramedic is the partner on the scene.

"Having the person in the area gives us a better ability to form teams with the people working in the area. Train with them. They get more familiar with our equipment because they see it in use and training. That can be a very positive thing."

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