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April 13, 2016 - The Norman Fire Department’s medical first responders are now certified for, and will begin to provide, advanced level of emergency care, in addition to the basic level medical care currently provided. The new increased level of emergency care will begin Thursday.
“Since we are often first on the scene in a medical emergency, we are very grateful for the support of our community that allows us to provide a higher level of care in those serious or life-threatening situations in which every minute matters,” said Interim Fire Chief Jim Bailey. Bailey said the fire department responds to approximately 8700 calls for medical assistance each year, which is 69% of the total calls for service received by the department.
Emergency medical technician (EMT) personnel follow written protocols as set by the medical director, Dr. Patrick Cody. “Moving to fire engines with personnel capable of advanced level medical care means that Norman, like many other cities, recognizes the importance of providing the best care possible to its residents. It will build upon a system that we have always been proud of by decreasing the amount of time our residents have to wait for advanced level medical interventions,” said Dr. Cody.
Cody, a board certified emergency medicine physician with the Norman Regional Health System, provides oversight in all aspects of the policy and procedures for emergency care provided by the Norman Fire Department and works closely with the personnel to assure quality patient care.
Fifteen of the department’s personnel have recently received advanced EMT training to provide the higher level of emergency care, which includes advanced paramedic level assessment, advanced airway management (intubation), venous access (establishing an IV), EKGs and defibrillation.
They will also administer some medications such as aspirin for heart attacks, epi-pens, and medication to stabilize diabetic patients.
In total 29 personnel will be available to perform at the advanced level. Thirteen more will be added in the next few months.
The new advanced medical protocols will improve patient status before arrival of the ambulance personnel or admission to the hospital. This advanced level of treatment can result in improved patient outcomes and shorter hospital stays.
Currently the Norman Fire Department responds to all medical calls in the city, operating at the EMT level to provide care such as first aid and administration of oxygen. The department can now provide life-saving support until ambulance personnel arrive. Ten fire trucks are equipped with medications, intravenous and airway equipment, and breathing tubes.
Norman EMSStat Reports High Survival Rates for Cardiac Arrest Patients
According to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, the overall survival to hospital discharge rate for cardiac arrest was 9.6 out of a nationwide sample of health centers. EMSStat reported an overall survival to hospital discharge rate of 20 percent, said Eddie Sims, EMSStat manager and paramedic. EMSStat is owned and operated by Norman Regional Health System. “EMSStat and the city of Norman have a history of excellent care, but the last four years have been outstanding,” Sims said. “Norman is comparable to the best places in the nation.”
One of the most accurate ways to determine an emergency service’s success is to also look at data for survival to hospital discharge rate for witnessed cardiac arrests with an initial shockable rhythm. This means a bystander saw a person collapse, and that a life-saving device such as a defibrillator or an AED could be used. The nationwide data for this type of arrest reports a survival to hospital discharge rate of 30.1 percent. EMSStat reported a 61 percent survival to hospital discharge rate for witnessed arrests with an initial shock able rhythm.
Sims said the fast and expert care at Norman Regional facilities helps increase these survival rates. Norman Regional Health System employs special procedure, called a ‘Code STEMI’, to get patients the treatment they need quickly. In fact, Norman Regional has met the national standard of door to percutaneous coronary intervention (treatment) time of 90 minutes for 100 percent of all qualifying patients in 2011-2012, said Donna Avila RN, Cardiovascular Imaging Manager. “Time is tissue, and establishing revascularization of coronary arteries in the 90 minute window or less can be a significant component in a patient’s survival rate,” Avila said. “The raw numbers of patient survival rates is amazing and contributes to the overall pride in being a part of this community and health system.”
Sims also credits the way Norman’s public safety and medical professionals work together to EMSStat’s success in the field. “The reason our rates are so good is Norman has a very cohesive system,” Sims said. “All public safety, from fire to police to dispatch, all work together, train together and are on the same page.”
Time is everything for cardiac arrest patients. Their heart has literally stopped. Sims said the survival rate goes down 10 percent for every minute a person doesn’t receive CPR. “Fire and police get to the scene early and stop the clock and buy time,” Sims said.
Sims said the key to helping someone with a cardiac episode is to call 9-1-1 when having chest pain. Taking a CPR class is also a good thing. “Dispatchers are trained to give CPR instructions over the phone too,” Sims said. “Just push hard and push fast.”