By Eugenia Jones
Raking in more than $2 million in grants over the last decade has allowed McCreary County’s EMS to advance in multiple ways. Today, highly trained employees utilize high performance equipment, advanced technology, and the most recent EMS protocols.
“Our first priority is to provide the best possible advanced life support (ALS) care to local residents,” EMS Director Jimmy Barnett stated. “Someone needing an ambulance in an emergency and not being able to get one is the worst fear of any EMS director. However, with that being said, McCreary County EMS has continued to add ambulances to our fleet so we can always be prepared. I started out with four ambulances and increased the fleet to five, and then to six. Now, with the coming addition of two van ambulances, we are going to have eight ALS ambulances. Although, the new van ambulances are being added primarily for non-emergency transfers, they will be fully equipped with advanced life support (ALS.) We will now have eight fully equipped ALS ambulances. If we are ever in a situation needing to run eight emergency ambulances, we will have them.”
During Barnett’s tenure as the EMS director, the Ambulance Service has replaced all heart monitors and added chest compression devices. Additionally, all heart monitors are equipped with modems that can be hooked up to patients experiencing chest pain. EMS personnel working with the patient can simply push a button to send a copy of the patient’s EKG to the hospital (Somerset or Corbin) so doctors can determine if they need to have a hospital catheterization lab prepared for the patient upon his/her arrival.
“We had a situation like that happen just recently,” Barnett commented. “An advanced level support EMT transmitted the patient’s EKG, and Corbin called to let us know they were activating a cath lab. The patient ended up having a stent placed and now is doing fine.”
The chest compression devices also provide life-saving support when a patient “crashes.”
“We put the chest compression devices on and leave them on even going into the hospital,” Barnett noted.
McCreary County’s Advanced Level EMTs (AEMTs) are now allowed to administer nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as laughing gas, for pain management. Paramedics can administer additional pain management protocols.
Barnett is currently awaiting state approval of protocols for McCreary County EMS to use ultrasounds. Once received, McCreary County will be the first in the state to ask and receive approval.
“Ultrasounds are important in letting us and doctors at the hospital know if a patient has internal bleeding,” Barnett noted. “If they know in advance, the hospital can go ahead and be prepared for surgery or treatment.”
All McCreary County EMS ambulances have loading systems and power stretchers making it much easier for EMTs and paramedics to load patients.
“We actually have employees who work here for a little less money than surrounding counties because the equipment is safer and easier to use,” Barnett noted.
All ambulances (trucks) have been replaced once in the last ten years, and Barnett is following a schedule for the second round of replacements. On average, each ambulance truck racks up approximately 100,000 miles per year. Currently, one 2018 truck has 358,000 miles.
Protocols (amount of care that can be given) for McCreary County’s Ambulance Service are current with all in the state, and McCreary’s updated protocols are shared with ambulance services in surrounding counties. All levels of EMTS including basic level support EMTS, advanced level support EMTs, and paramedics are employed at McCreary County’s EMS. Barnett attempts to schedule at least one advanced level support EMT or paramedic to assist on all runs except for non-emergency transfers or calls requiring only basic level support.
“Kentucky is really moving ahead with training and allowing advanced level EMTS to do more and more,” Barnett noted. “They’ve done this in part to address the shortage of paramedics. In a sense, McCreary County led the way in 2014 by having the first class of advanced level support EMTs to actually start working on the streets.”
McCreary County’s EMS Assistant Chief Brandy Kidd and Major Kasey Phillips provide training to the public and professionals. Phillips conducts EMT training for those in the public who want to work as EMTs. McCreary County’s EMS also offers Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Life Support (PALS) trainings that are required for nurses, doctors, etc. at hospitals.
For the general public, McCreary County EMS offers first aid and AED (electronic defibrillator) training and has worked with the McCreary County Schools to teach “Stop the Bleeding” classes. The local EMS also works closely with schools, public library, Boy/Girl Scouts, and other groups in providing tours of the EMS building and ambulances.
“Our training program and equipment are top of the line,” Barnett noted.
As an example of the type of equipment used in training, Barnett noted a simulator or manikin recently purchased with funds from a federal grant. The manikin, which can be adjusted from female to male, reacts much like a human being. The manikin is used for training and functions like a human being in that it can blink, scream in pain, take an IV, give birth, etc.
Barnett sees a bright future for McCreary County’s EMS as advances in medicine and emergency medical services continue to evolve.
“The things we can do and the equipment we have in the field of emergency medical services are just amazing,” Barnett declared. “Providing quality service will always be our priority.”