EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 6, 2013

Town considers adding ambulance service

LGH says medics wouldn't get enough patient experience

ANDOVER — Fire Chief Mike Mansfield is looking to upgrade the town’s ambulance fleet from providing basic life support services to handle advanced life support needs, but it’s a plan that Lawrence General Hospital officials oppose.

Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski is looking to increase a few specific line items in the fire department’s budget this year to begin the process towards increasing the town’s ambulance service qualifications.

Two town ambulances — with the purchase of a third going to annual Town Meeting in May — currently provide “basic life services,” which includes a variety of tasks that town ambulances carry out today when transporting a patient to the hospital, Mansfield said.

Upgrading the town’s BLS abilities to ALS will, in short, give the town the ability to bring the hospital to a patient’s front door quicker.

“Advanced life support is patient care that’s provided by EMT paramedics that are trained at a higher level to begin fluid therapy and do other invasive skills,” Mansfield said.

The town currently relies on crews from Lawrence General Hospital to provide ALS services as needed. If the town is “allowed to move forward with the program, we’ll be able to reduce response times by about 20 to 25 percent,” Mansfield said.

One example of a task provided by ALS paramedics would be the intubation — the process through which breathing tubes are inserted into a patient who can’t breathe.

Another service provided by advanced life support is the use of the 12-lead EKG, conventionally known as a heart monitor.

“Medics are taught how to read the heart algorithms that are on the screen,” he said. “They’re also trained to be able to utilize different narcotics and medications on the field as well.”

The department is looking for a “first-year start-up cost of just under $146,000,” Mansfield said. The cost would increase slightly year by year, but “the projected revenue for each and every year going through 2017 covers the entire cost of program implementation.”

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