ALS Crew Moving into Pennsylvania Community

ALS Crew Moving into Pennsylvania Community

News Jan 17, 2013

Jan. 16--MERCERSBURG -- A permanent advanced life support unit will be housed in Mercersburg starting Feb. 24.

The Medic 2 paramedic service will be available 24 hours 7 days a week.

The move is the latest expansion of emergency medical services in Franklin County. The county's first ALS units were started in the mid-1980s at Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitals. ALS units currently are manned in five communities -- Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Greencastle, Fayetteville and St. Thomas -- plus Shippensburg in Cumberland County.

Paramedics respond to heart attacks, severe crashes and other emergencies. They provide an additional level of skilled emergency care beyond basic life support services provided by emergency medical technicians and volunteer ambulance companies. They and their instruments communicate directly with hospital emergency room staff about treatment for patients on the way to the hospital.

Life saving protocols have made the medic unit an emergency room on wheels.

In Franklin County, medic units are chase vehicles delivering paramedics and support equipment to emergencies. The BLS ambulance transports the patient and the paramedic to the hospital.

"I am excited for Medic 2 to come to the station," said MMPW Acting Fire Chief Dale Carbaugh. "We have had a good working relationship for quite a few years. This ALS unit placement stands to improve the quality of care to our residents."

Medic 2 has been serving the area of Mercersburg, Montgomery

Township and southeastern Peters Township for more than a decade from Rescue Hose Company in Greencastle. Medics can save about 10 minutes in response time to calls in Mercersburg.

"I want to thank the MMPW fire board of directors for their support in making this move," said Brain Stum, president of the Medic 2 board. "I feel we have created a great working relationship through the years. This shows how much they care about the people they represent. Medic 2 has worked very hard to provide the best pre-hospital care in the ALS community. We are committed to Mercersburg and the surrounding townships of Peters, Warren, and Montgomery to be there when they need us."

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A paramedic unit will continue to run 911 calls from Greencastle.

Carbaugh said he will recommend to the four municipalities by mid-February that the Mercersburg Medic 2 run nearly the entire MMPW area. Municipalities, however, will make the final decision. Carbaugh said he may propose that the Medic 1, stationed at the St. Thomas Township Fire Company, to be first due in some areas when St. Thomas is closer than Mercersburg. "My end goal is to provide a better service to the community," Carbaugh said. Three non-profit ALS companies serve Franklin County. Medic 2, based at Waynesboro Hospital, serves the southern part of the county. Medic 1, affiliated with Holy Spirit Health System and based in Chambersburg, serves the central and northern half of Franklin County. Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Company houses its own ALS ambulances serving the eastern part of the county. The ambulance service two generations ago consisted of a Cadillac station wagon flying more than 100 mph to the hospital. "You didn't get any care until you got to the hospital," Franklin County Commissioner Robert Thomas said. Trained emergency medical technicians first appeared in the county in the 1970s. Highly skilled paramedics joined the pre-hospital response in 1983. There's currently a shortage of paramedics, according to Doug Bitner, assistant chief of the southern division of West Shore. Volunteers must pay nearly $1,000 for 220 hours of training over a period of six to eight months to become an EMT, according to Bitner. A year of paramedic training then costs a person $10,000. There is no ALS curriculum in Franklin County. Those who become paramedics stay a short time, then leave for higher paying positions that offer pensions. "I'm basically a growing field for Maryland paramedics," Bitner recently to members of the Franklin County Council of Government. "We're too close to the metro counties." ALS services are also stiffed when it comes to medical reimbursement. The ambulance transporting a patient gets more reimbursement from Medicare than the responding medic unit gets, Bitner said. The medic gets $60 a call. A paramedic carries a $30,000 cardiac monitor -- complete with defibrillator, external pacemaker, thermometer and monitors for oxygen and carbon dioxide. The emergency room staff sees what the paramedic sees. He or she also has $1,300 device to do automatic chest compressions on a heart attack victim. "You can do CPR going up and down steps," Bitner said. The save rate of people experiencing cardiac arrests in the county is five to 10 percent, according to Bitner, as compared to a 30 percent success rate in some metro areas. A medic unit for the Mercersburg area has been in the works for nearly 25 years. Dr. Bruce Foster saw it at the Whitetail ski resort he planned for Montgomery Township. A Medic 2 unit was stationed at the resort in 2001, but later removed. Most emergencies at the resort require only BLS response, according to Carbaugh. Local residents hear a lot of calls to the single address during winter, but typically just 60 to 70 of MMPW's 1,000 ambulance calls in a year originate at Whitetail. "When you look at the grand scheme of things, it's still not a lot," Carbaugh said. MMPW and Medic 2 officials recently began discussing the possibility of placing a Medic unit in at the fire hall during the ski season. The two organizations developed a plan in November and December. MMPW invited Medic 2 to park at the fire hall. Carbaugh said the company is making room in its four-bay ambulance station. ------------- Jim Hook can be reached at 717-262-4759 and jhook@publicopinionnews.com.

Copyright 2013 - Public Opinion, Chambersburg, Pa.

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Public Opinion, Chambersburg, Pa.
Jim Hook
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