St. Charles Parish Hospital has made a significant leap in first responder technology by adding three new ambulances to the hospitalís emergency response unit fleet and upgrading two older units.
The new ambulances are fully operational and include the latest in equipment for cardiac treatment. This technology makes each unit capable of beginning hospital-level care immediately, officials said. The use of this cutting-edge technology allows physicians to have the proper treatment protocols in place before a patient even arrives in the emergency department.
Quinn Landry, a hospital spokesman, said included in the new units are a number of upgrades including laptops that provide real time communication with the hospitalís dispatch.
Ken Rousseau, director of Emergency Medical Services at St. Charles Parish Hospital, said that paramedics now have the ability to transmit EKG information for review by a cardiologist while the ambulance is in transit.
"Basically, the hospital knows whatís going on before we get them," Landry said.
Jeffrey Weens, who has been a paramedic for 11 years, said in addition to increased communications the laptops serve as navigation aids.
"If I mishear the street address as 405 and itís really 409, weíll be able to see on the laptop screen the correct address," he said.
Weens and his EMT partner, Angela Champagne, said one upgrade in particular will be of great help to them. Included in the new ambulances and upgraded in the older units are hydraulic stretcher units that raise and lower patients at the push of a button.
"One of the biggest problems out in the field is lifting injuries. The new hydraulic stretchers help us out and help further our careers," Weens said.
Champagne, who is diminutive in size, said for her the hydraulic lifts are a great help.
"It is definitely a big difference. On the old stretchers you actually had to reach down and lift up the patient," she said. "It prevents injuries where we are out of work."
In addition, all EMS units now have auto-pulse machines on board. An auto-pulse is a device the straps on to the chest of a patient and provides chest compressions during CPR. This reduces the amount of time the patient goes without chest compressions, improves blood flow for cardiac arrest victims and ensures clinical safety.
Landry said it is like having a third pair of hands in the ambulance.
"You donít realize just how hard it is for them to provide those chest compressions. It definitely takes the stress and strain off of our EMS workers," Landry said.
The total cost of the ambulances and upgrades was $660,000. They were funded by the community of St. Charles Parish after the April 2012 millage was passed. The proposition on the ballot asked parish voters to allow the hospital to issue $15 million in bonds to fund several capital projects.
Landry said he thinks the money was well spent.
"Our EMS units cover 482 square miles in St. Charles Parish," he said. "Everything they have is just amazing. It really looks a lot like a hospital on wheels."
"Our fleet is constantly on the road as we have responded to about 7,369 emergency calls in the last 16 months. These new ambulances, with our highly-skilled paramedic providers as well as all the equipment we have on board, it is like having a hospital on wheels," he said. "It is definitely going to provide a higher level of care to the residents of St. Charles Parish and improve our ability to cover the 448 square miles that we are responsible for in parish."