Equipment and training upgrades are being rolled out at the South Lorain County Ambulance District.
All SLCAD ambulances will now be fitted with ventilators — a first for the district — while all crew members are slated to train toward earning advanced paramedic certifications.
The additions are expected to be in place by May 1.
“We want to give the residents of our communities the best, and nothing but the best,” said SLCAD director Skip Gentry. “It entails a lot of training and adjustments to our medical protocols. Medication-assisted intubations will also start May 1. That means we’ll be able to use medication to complete the process of putting a breathing tube on a patient. There’s some patients we haven’t been able to complete that procedure on because they’re awake or have some degree of a reflex reaction.”
“Now we don’t have to watch someone deteriorate,” he said. “We can intervene right away and hopefully support that patient before we get to the hospital.”
Having ventilators in each ambulance will help during transport times that can range up to 30 minutes. The equipment will also free up a pair of hands to attend to other aspects of patient care, Gentry said.
SLCAD covers a 125-square-mile area and transports patients to eight hospitals.
“For our on-station staff, we’re out the door in under a minute on average and our backup is out the door in five,” Gentry said. “Our service area could very well be one of the largest in the state, and depending on what hospital we’re going to, it can create extremely long transport times. If we go out to Penfield, people there tend to gravitate toward Medina but you can find us all the way down in Lodi occasionally.”
The new ventilators also have CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) capability, which keeps airways open for patients still able to breathe on their own via mild air pressure.
One change already in place at SLCAD is a daily session for most employees to practice techniques and scenarios that Gentry can change on the fly via Bluetooth software.
“Every piece of training needs to be as realistic as possible,” he said. “We want our folks to have a sort of muscle memory or an automatic response to anything we can throw at them. If I’m here at 1 p.m., anyone else here is usually with me is in this room. Sometimes I come in on the weekends and surprise everyone.”
Simulations are performed on mannequins ranging from infant to adult size.
Supervisor Fred Swanson and EMT Catie Brasee echoed the benefits of the extra preparation sessions.
“I love doing this,” Brasee said. “I look forward to learning new things and (Gentry) throws anything and everything at you. You get a little taste of everything.”
Training came in handy for crew members in October when they responded to a dog attack in New London that left an elderly man bleeding and critically injured.
Quick treatment and transport led to full recovery for the victim and the situation was featured March 5 in Cleveland Metro Life Flight’s annual trauma case review.
”We were one of three cases that was picked out of literally hundreds from over the past year,” Gentry said. “I was extremely proud of all involved. The decision-making they displayed really affected the outcome. It’s a product of their professionalism and how they embrace what’s presented to them.”
SLCAD call volume is up 15 percent compared to this time in 2017, said Gentry, who still works occasionally for Metro as a flight nurse.
“We don’t venture outside our service area that often, so those numbers are up right here at home,” he said. “We might go outside to provide mutual aid to a unit right on our border. The flu, car crashes, overdoses — you name it. Everything is up across the board.”
“I like to still get up in the air with Cleveland because I get to see what they’re doing, no matter how small,” said Gentry. “You never know when you’ll see something that can carry over to us here in Wellington.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.