EMS advisory group to start meeting next month
By Sally Voth -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Ambulances are spending longer periods out of the county as patients are being taken to hospitals in Winchester and Harrisonburg, Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew said at the Board of Supervisors' public safety and code committee meeting Tuesday.
While an ambulance dispatched from Woodstock might be able to return to its station in an hour if it took a patient to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, that time can double or triple if it makes a run to Winchester Medical Center or Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Yew said.
Factor in ambulances bringing patients from far-flung locations, such as Conicville or Orkney Springs, and the turnaround time can be four hours, he said.
An EMS advisory group is going to start meeting next month at the urging of Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Association President Dale Fogle, Yew said.
Shenandoah Memorial Hospital President Floyd Heater told the committee that Valley Health has been meeting with leadership from the Department of Fire and Rescue and other agencies during the past six months to discuss emergency care. Most recently, they've talked about obstetrics patients and the closure of the SMH birthing center earlier this summer, he said.
Most rescue patients can be taken to SMH, said Dr. John C. "Jack" Potter, the operational medical director for the Lord Fairfax Emergency Medical Services Council, the medical director for the emergency department at Winchester Medical Center and the system medical director for emergency services for Valley Health.
Those that are better off being diverted to other emergency departments are those needing cardiac cath lab treatment and some stroke victims, he said.
"These are things that have become more clear over the past several years," Potter said.
While SMH lacks a cardiac cath lab, much great cardiac care is provided there, he said.
Added to the list of patients who need to be diverted are women in labor -- unless it's an emergency. Women in labor have been directed to Warren Memorial Hospital's maternity unit.
"This has been the most recent stressant," Potter said. "The hospital struggled with this issue. They didn't have enough women delivering at Shenandoah."
In an emergency, babies can be delivered in the ER at SMH, he said.
"Is it as good as being in a labor and delivery department?" Potter asked. "It's not."
District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli said the county is averaging 40 percent of ambulance patients going out of the county.
"I feel that's a burden," she said. "How do we work together to get that percentage down?"
If he needs emergency medical care, Board of Supervisors Chairman David Ferguson said, he's not going to be concerned with how long an ambulance is out of station.
"Now, the county may care, or the volunteer rescue squad may care," he said. "I as a patient want the excellence of care. It's me I'm worried about at this point. To what level of excellence am I, going down the road, going to expect out of Woodstock?"
What happens in the emergency room at SMH is the same at what happens in its counterpart in Winchester, said Potter, who has pulled shifts at the Woodstock facility. Ninety-five percent of the time, patients' problems can be treated there, he said.
Some employers allow volunteer EMTs to leave work to go on calls, District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris said, but it can be a problem if a call takes 31/2 hours.
"That's where [Valley Health] needs to step up on transports and even on personnel," he said.