Getting there fast

First Posted: 5/10/2014

The Back Mountain Regional Emergency Medical Service has been presented with an award by the Geisinger Health System in recognition of its quick and professional response times to emergencies in a 60 square mile area, including Dallas Borough, Dallas Township, Lehman, Jackson Twp., Lake Silkworth and Kingston Twp.

In presenting the award, Kathy Zipay, a Level One Heart Attack Coordinator at Geisinger, said, “Having EMS response times of less than 90 minutes is the standard nationally and our goal for a heart attack victim, for instance. This department and their units average 63 minutes per call and their fastest time was 50 minutes, from the time the responder first gets to the patient until they get to the hospital.”

“Time is muscle” or fast response time saves damaged heart muscle when it comes to heart attack victims and the department has a history of doing good work, according to Zipay. They handle 3,000 calls a year and that breaks down to 50 or 60 calls per month or six to eight calls each day, according to Robert Skasko, Dallas EMS chief.

In 2013, the Back Mounain Regional Fire & EMS was designated “The Best Agency of the Year” in the state by the PA Emergency Health Services Council – a coveted and well-respected designation.

Chris Good, Response EMS Chief, notes that the three ambulance units are on call 24/7 and are now manned 80 percent of the time by paid medical paramedics or EMTs. The department only uses two volunteers in its staffing cycle now.

Skasko says the trend is moving away from an all-volunteer force and for more consolidation among the towns because the volunteer base is shrinking and the skill level needed to man ambulance units is complicated.

Besides providing basic life support, EMTs hook up EKGs, do airway intubations and administer drugs to the patient on the way to the hospital, which can cause legal liabilities.

This is a far cry from 1954 when the Community Ambulance Association, an arm of the Dallas Fire Company, bought its first ambulance which was stored in the Dallas Borough Building and was manned 24/7 by volunteers with only basic life support capabilities.

Today, patients are closely monitored in the ambulance as they are transported to a hospital and have staff alert and on hand when they get there.

The upgrade to more advanced medical ambulance units came in 2011, according to Good.

Good estimates the cost of an emergency ride to the hospital costs between $100 to $150.

Many emergency trips are reimbursed by insurance claims, Good says, but some of the funds come from the annual Dallas Fire and Ambulance Membership Drive. Residents receive a request for a donation in the mail.

A small contribution to the drive fund from a household in the Back Mountain area eliminates an ambulance charge to the patient and Good thinks, “That’s a pretty good bargain.”

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