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Gateways to health care
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Gateways to health care

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What a difference 20 years can make.

In the two decades since Beatrice Fire and Rescue began an ambulance service, the ambulance service has become a dominant part of the department, as medical calls and transfers from one medical center to another have continued to climb, while the department’s staff has stayed consistent.

Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Daake explained just how significant the department’s medical services are.

“Probably 85 percent or more of the calls that we respond to are healthcare related, whether we’re the gateway to the healthcare system or helping those with chronic illnesses or injuries moving to different care facilities.”

Daake said when the ambulance service was introduced in the mid 1990s, the department responded to a total of around 1,500 calls annually.

Today, he said that number has increased to more than 2,500 calls per year, and more than 2,000 are “definitely” medical calls.

The number of calls hasn’t been the only change to the medical side of the department’s business.

Better, more efficient technology has been implement by Beatrice Fire and Rescue and other departments to further a patient’s road to recovery or chance to survive.

Fire and Rescue Capt. Corey Lieneman said the department has evolved from handwriting its case reports, to electronically recording 500-600 data elements for each patient that take around an hour to record.

Even the mentality when responding to a medical call has changed.

“It’s a night and day difference,” he said. “15 years ago it was truly scoop them up, and how quick can you get to the hospital. That was big, how long was your on-scene time. If you were on scene less than 10 minutes you were doing a good job. Now, it’s more based on not how long you were on-scene, but what did you do for the patient during that time.”

Everyone with the department is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and Daake said 13 rescue workers have reached the rank of paramedic, while two more are currently in training for it.

The process of becoming an EMT takes more than 100 hours, and Fire and Rescue worker Jeff Hays speculated the hours demanded are a reason some volunteer departments are struggling to find volunteers.

“That’s why you see a lot of volunteers running into trouble,” he said. “When I was growing up, you didn’t have little league football, the traveling. People are busier. It’s harder for volunteers to meet all those hours. That’s the big thing.”

Last year, the department added the LUCAS2, an external, mechanical device that provides automated chest compressions to an adult in cardiac arrest. The machine is meant to increase the survival rates of patients who experience a heart attack.

The LUCAS2 device relieves first responders, paramedics, fire and hospital personnel and provides uninterrupted chest compressions that are precise, thereby increasing the patient’s survival rate.

First responders often have to fit through tight spaces or maneuver around sharp corners while moving patients, interrupting manual chest compressions. The LUCAS2 can stay consistent, even when the patient is being moved on stairs.

For a few years now, Beatrice Fire and Rescue has also found success with a new method of diagnosing a certain type of heart attack.

Rescue workers are able to better detect ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) heart attacks.

When detected in the field rather than a hospital, STEMI heart attack patients are transported directly to BryanLGH East in Lincoln, saving hours.

STEMI heart attacks are caused by an excessive period of blocked blood supply that affects a large portion of the heart muscle.

Because STEMIs are identified before patients are transported to a hospital, they can instead be transported directly to the catheterization lab at BryanLGH East, in Lincoln, where medical professionals have been notified of the patient en route.

“Basically, it’s an ST elevation and it’s showing up on a monitor in an obvious way,” Daake said. “That’s where one of the blood vessels is completely or partially blocked, so the blood flow’s not getting through. The only way for that to be fixed is to get them to a catheterization lab, where they can go in and clear the artery.”

While not available yet, Lieneman predicted the department will some day use a similar technology to better diagnose and treat stroke patients. Beatrice Fire and Rescue workers aren’t the only ones using better technology to potentially save lives.

Hays recalled the first defibrillator in Gage County outside of a hospital was heavy and complicated to use, requiring an eight-hour training course and monthly recertification.

“Basically, you couldn’t hang it on the wall because it was too heavy,” Hays recalled. “Now you’ve got them everywhere and a person can follow the instructions and use them.”

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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