Love County EMS Offering Paramedic Training
Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2008
Advanced Life Support: Love County EMS is one of few rural counties to have attained paramedic status and able to provide the most extensive pre-hospital care. Kneeling from left are Richard Barker, Mercy Health/Love County administrator; Tad Hall, PA, EMS manager; Obie Heath, EMT; and James Hicks, paramedic.
Young people take note: A career path in healthcare has opened in Marietta.
Love County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and Mercy Health/Love County Hospital now offer education in emergency medicine services.
Through an agreement with Kiamichi Area Vo-Tech, they have formed a distance-learning center for paramedic students in the region.
The program utilizes state-of-the-art videoconferencing to connect students and instructors from several sites around the state.
The first paramedic training course started in February. The prerequisite, basic emergency medical technician (EMT) training, is expected to get underway in the near future.
American Heart Association courses for the public, such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) also are in the offing.
A new website, www.lovecountyems.net, contains more information.
EMS manager Tad Hall, PA, stated the hospital’s goal: “We want to be more self-sufficient in producing high quality EMTs and paramedics, as well as increase access to American Heart training for our communities and healthcare providers.”
Students in EMT or paramedic training formerly had to drive to Ardmore or north Texas. Now they will study in a new training center attached to the EMS building on hospital groundsin Marietta.
Paramedic training in Marietta takes 16 months and earns credit hours through Oklahoma State University, almost enough hours for an Associate of Science degree, said Hall.
The students learn advanced life support, advanced cardiac life support, pre-hospital trauma life support, intravenous therapy, advanced pharmacology, advanced airway management, cardiology, and care of childbirth emergencies.
They train with local ambulances and also receive clinical training in the emergency rooms of local hospitals.
Love County EMS answers an average of 94 calls per month, with about half resulting in emergency transport. It has a fulltime, paid staff, operating at the paramedic level, which is a relative rarity among the state’s rural counties, according to Eddy Manley, training coordinator of the EMS Division of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Manley said many of the state’s 160 ambulance services are struggling – 40 have closed in the last five years – mainly due to scarce talent.
“I know you have a good ambulance service in Marietta because I don’t receive complaints about them for things like delays, poor patient care, incorrect diagnoses, or being rude or uncaring,” Manley said. “Most other rural services are volunteer, with basic licensure. The EMTs get burned out because they’re working two jobs.”
The training center is the latest in a long line of improvements for the ambulance service since 1993, when Love County EMS, to avert bankruptcy, formed an intra-local cooperative agreement with the hospital.
Under the agreement, the EMS Board engaged the hospital to manage the ambulance service, while retaining major responsibility for capital purchases, such as ambulances. The following improvements ensued:
· Paramedic Status – Ambulance licensure has progressed from basic to paramedic licensure. John Gilliam, training coordinator, who was one of the hospital’s first ambulance staff hires in 1993, explained the difference. “The term ‘Advanced Life Support’ on the side of an ambulance means there is at least one paramedic on every run, and probably two, and the ambulance is equipped to take care of any emergency, far beyond basic capabilities,” he said.
· Financial Stability – According to hospital administrator Richard Barker, the hospital has been able to operate the ambulance on a break-even basis, in part because it can use ambulance staff to assist in the emergency room and elsewhere in the hospital. For revenues, the hospital relies on collections from transported patients, plus three mills of property taxes contributed by Love County EMS. The EMS uses sales tax revenues earmarked for EMS to pay off debts and save for new ambulances and equipment.
· Vehicles – After three years, by 1996, the EMS debts were cleared and the first of four new or almost-new ambulances to join the fleet in the next dozen years was purchased, as well as a Suburban for off-road emergencies. The hospital placed heart monitors, defibrillators, pacemakers, life-saving drugs and intravenous medications on board. It pays the cost of heating and cooling the ambulance bay so that medications stay fresh. The Hospital Auxiliary (Pink Ladies’) has also purchased equipment, most recently furnishing a disaster trailer.
· Continuity of Leadership -- Dr. J.T. O’Connor, medical director, and Hall, a physician’s assistant who also manages the hospital’s emergency department, have provided continuity of clinical leadership for many years. They have been instrumental in the growth of the county’s EMS system to include a large group of trained Emergency Medical Responders (formerly First Responders). These are volunteer firefighters, law enforcement officers, and laypersons throughout the county who strive to be first on the scene to provide aid until an ambulance arrives.
The EMS and hospital also have formed agreements with several air ambulance operations in Oklahoma and Texas so that critically ill patients can be airlifted to any of a number of trauma centers in the two states.
· Expanded Sources of Revenue -- Since 2004, additional financial support for the ambulance service has come from a contractual relationship with Chickasaw Enterprises. Under the arrangement, the tribe paid the cost for the hospital and EMS to establish a 24-hour ambulance substation at WinStar Casinos and purchase an ambulance. That ambulance station responds not just to WinStar, but also to calls in the surrounding area, which has significantly improved response in the southern county.
One year later, the contract expanded to include First Aid services inside the casino. In 2006, when Riverwind Casino opened in Norman, Mercy Health/Love County was engaged to provide First Aid services there, also.
The Hospital Board of Control and EMS Board of Control have worked compatibly for the past 15 years, something that Manley says doesn’t happen everywhere.
“The hospital gets calls all the time from other communities wanting to know how our hospital and ambulance have managed their arrangement and seeking advice on how they can be successful, too,” said Darlene Beardsley, president of the hospital Board for almost 20 years.
“Our community just understood, we can’t have health care without an ambulance,” Beardsley said.
EMS Board of Control president Marty Grisham, a Highway Patrol Trooper, praised the new paramedic program and the 15-year relationship with the hospital. “Having the training here will be good for our citizens and for people passing through the county. Everyone benefits from well-trained personnel with quality equipment. We’re thankful to the hospital. Richard Barker has been phenomenal at putting all this together,” he said.
What Is an EMT? What is a Paramedic?
Both EMTs and paramedics drive and work out of ambulances that are dispatched on emergency 911 calls for ill or injured patients.
EMTs provide a level of care known as basic life support. They assess the patient, perform CPR, bandage, splint broken bones, and administer oxygen and defibrillation.
Paramedics provide the most extensive pre-hospital care. They may administer intravenous drugs, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs), open airways, and use monitors and other complex equipment.
Both EMTS and paramedics help transport patients to the emergency room of the hospital.
Love County EMS Fulltime Staff:
Paramedics John Gilliam, David Manning, Tracy Walker, Lea Brown, Michael Talkington, RN, Jeff Hicks, Scott Neu, James Hicks, Derek Weeks, Alex Eden, Justin Cheek; EMTs Obie Heath, June Standridge.
Paramedics Gerald Kuhlman, Philip Sloan, Terry Birks; EMTs Teresa Tow, Kenneth Montgomery.