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Victoria Fire department studies response times, improves care

By Bianca Montes
May 6, 2014 at 12:06 a.m.
Updated May 7, 2014 at 12:07 a.m.

After responding to an evening fire call in Bloomington, Victoria Fire Department Firefighter EMT Noe Garcia takes off his equipment before returning back to Station 1 in Victoria.

Aaron Janssen is still thinking about a wreck he was called to last year on U.S. 59. In order to be taken to a nearby hospital, the driver needed to be extricated - but his injuries and damages to the vehicle kept emergency workers from getting that man to the hospital in a timely manner.

Paramedics began to work on the trapped man inside of his car, and nothing seemed to be going in their favor - air was trapped in the driver's lungs, there was a lot of blood loss, and it was a struggle to keep him warm.

"There were a lot of things wrong with him - things we didn't treat," Janssen, 27, of Edna, said. "Things we were unable to treat."

Janssen who has been a paramedic with the Victoria Fire Department for the past four years, said those types of calls stick with him because he always wonders what he could have done better.

The Victoria Fire Department took an in-depth look into its critical care data throughout 2013 to identify its strengths and pinpoint areas of weakness.

Fire Chief Taner Drake said this type of research was a first for the department.

The data looked at response times and communication efforts between the fire department and hospital for all trauma-related emergency calls, showing that Victoria is both meeting and surpassing many national benchmarks.

According to the data, the national goal response time, which is set by the American Heart Association, from the fire station to the location of an emergency call is six minutes for stroke, trauma and cardiac care calls.

Victoria's numbers show an average response time of 5.14 minutes for trauma calls, 3.34 minutes for stroke calls and 4.27 minutes for cardiac care calls in 2013.

"When someone is having a heart attack, every minute that goes by is potential heart damage," Drake said. "Damage that can't be repaired."

Drake said the question of what they could have done better is always on his mind.

The American Heart Association recently recognized the fire department with its Lifeline EMS Recognition Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who suffer a severe heart attack.

The award follows the release of the fire department's 2013 critical care data.

DeTar Hospital's Director of Trauma Lisa Price called the fire department's efforts innovative and remarkable.

To help track the data, the fire department also has teamed up with DeTar Hospital to look at ways to improve communication from the scene to the hospital and better prepare paramedics for on-the-scene trauma care.

"We started looking at the standards of care we had in place, comparing it to national standards, and we evaluated it to see if there were any ways we could improve that care," Price said.

Price, who works with several hospitals in the state, said this is the first fire department she's seen take such a proactive approach to partner with a hospital to improve patient care.

"They've done such a great job, and as we learn, we expand," she said. "They improve their systems, and we improve ours."

The partnership, which began 18 months ago, provides monthly educational reviews with the medics, nurses and doctors to further discuss recent stroke, trauma and cardiac care calls.

Janssen said his goal is to get patients to the hospital as soon as possible, and the monthly meetings really help him and other paramedics.

"It's something I've waited a long time to see," he said. "I think we're working great as a team, and over time, we've been able to see the positive changes - we're making a positive difference."

Drake said he knows each trauma-related and fire call won't always reach those benchmarks achieved; each call relies on the nature of the situation. But he said the best message they can take away is always "How to do it better the next time."

"The only reason we do this is for our citizens. That's who we serve, and when they call us, we want them to have complete confidence."

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