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Ambulance District buys new equipment, ambulances

The St. Francois County Ambulance District has received new equipment that will cut down on injuries among their emergency medical personnel and make things better for patients.

Steve Pounds, education coordinator for the ambulance district, said they have new stretchers that will reduce the amount of lifting an EMT or paramedic must do.

While the new hydraulically-operated stretcher does weigh about 40 pounds more, it just takes a push of a button to bring the wheels of the stretcher up and down.

Without assistance, one person can raise and lower a stretcher with someone on it who weighs up to 500 pounds.

In the past, it took two people to pull the wheels up and down.

&#8220This will extend an EMT/medic’s career by five years,” Pounds estimated. &#8220As they get older, the first thing to go is the back. This will reduce back injuries.”

The device called a stair chair was purchased with the same intent.

Pound said the stair chair will be used to get patients in and out of their homes.

It will be especially handy when they are picking up a patient from a cramped space such as a single-wide trailer or from a building that has stairs such as an apartment building.

The patients are strapped into the chair in a sitting position. The chair has carrying handles at the top and bottom.

The oxygen and IV poles can be attached to the stretcher. There is a place on the back for a monitor. Before, Pounds said, they put the monitor between the patient’s legs and strapped it in.

Pound said the chair has tracks that rest on the steps and allows one person to slowly roll the chair down the steps. The chair can hold a person who weighs up to 500 pounds.

Pounds said they have seven stair chairs so far. He said they will be getting one for every ambulance.

*****Other new equipment*****

David Tetrault, director of the ambulance district, said the district’s Board of Directors approved $872,000 to purchase new equipment and ambulances.

&#8220We’re following our three to five year plan we put together a couple of years ago,” he said.

The ambulance district purchased 13 new monitors at $30,000 apiece. The old monitors only had three leads but the new monitors have 12, which means they have all 12 views of a patient’s heart. Pounds said this will save on time that is crucial to the patient.

The monitors have the ability to shock a patient without using paddles, pace their heart rhythm, and take a patient’s blood pressure. It also tells medical personnel whether they have intubated correctly.

&#8220It’s a very nice piece of equipment,” Pounds said.

The district has purchased three AutoPulse resuscitation devices – one for each ambulance house. The device automatically pumps the patient’s chest in order to circulate blood to the heart and brain during CPR.

To use the AutoPulse, the EMT/paramedic aligns the patient on the platform and places the LifeBand chest band over the patient’s chest and presses the start button to begin compressions. Emergency medical personnel then are free to focus on ventilation and other necessary interventions.

Pounds said the AutoPulse has a pretty good success rate. He said they will see how it works out for their district before deciding whether to purchase more.

In addition, the district was able to purchase four new ambulances and add two new crews.

Adding those two new crews has helped out a lot. In 2004, 301 was the number of times the county was left without an available ambulance. Tetrault said that number has decreased by about 80 percent.

Tetrault said they were able to replace all of this equipment without the use of a loan.

&#8220This is the equipment we needed for the last 15 years,” he said.

In April, voters approved a half-cent sales tax, which will replace the property tax, for the ambulance district. They began collecting money from the tax in December. Tetrault said they are currently $1 million short of what was anticipated. He is hoping they will get more money.

Tetrault said with the calls growing like they have been, district officials will have to soon look at adding a fourth house.

Another goal is to construct a regional education center for Southeast Missouri so emergency medical personnel here don’t have to travel all the way to Columbia or St. Louis for workshops. Pounds was recently named the full-time education coordinator for the ambulance district.

In 2005, the ambulance district responded to 10,831 calls, up 25 percent from 2004. Of those calls, 6,638 were emergency calls while the others were transfers. The most common types of calls were falls, respiratory problems, motor vehicle accidents, and chest pain.

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