Government Withholds Life-Saving Info
In 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a multi-year study of 10,000 drivers to further evaluate the safety risk posed by cell phone use, based on research it had done on a smaller scale. But the large study never commenced, and NHTSA decided to not make public its hundreds of pages of research.
According to a New York Times article, NHTSA officials said they withheld the information partly "because of concerns about angering Congress." Jeff Runge, MD, former head of NHTSA, was allegedly warned by members of Congress that using the data to lobby states would jeopardize billions of dollars in financing.
The research has now been made public by two consumer advocacy groups, the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen, which obtained the research summary document after filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. (A link to the document is available atwww.jems.com/nyt.)
The data estimates that 955 fatalities and 240,000 incidents in 2002 were caused by drivers using cell phones. Based on these results, researchers called for a broader study in order to collect more substantial, long-term data. Such a study could establish a reliable causal relationship between cell phone usage and collisions, leading to stronger enforcement by states to protect its citizens, and in turn, the EMS and fire crews who respond to inherently dangerous highway incidents.
"We_re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up," Center for Auto Safety Director Clarence Ditlow told The New York Times.
Critics say the failure of NHTSA to more diligently pursue distracted driving has cost lives and, we_d say, public trust.
Hospitals Foot the Bill
More than 20 EMS agencies in the Columbus, Ohio, area received 144 Velociter modems along with five-year subscriptions for data transmission service via LIFENET System from Physio-Control, all thanks to Columbus_ three adult hospital systems. At a cost of $490Ï$694 per unit, Chief Rob Farmer of Delaware EMS says this enhancement would have been difficult to afford without hospital support.
Capt. Shawn Koser of the Columbus Division of Fire (CDF), which was the largest EMS system in the data transmission program, says his department is pleased with the results. He explains that several agencies could previously transmit 12-lead data, but the process involved cell phones and was "unreliable and slow."
Now, at CDF, the modem is always connected to the LIFEPAK 12 and data can be sent to multiple receiving locations within one facility, including interventional cardiologists_ Blackberries, the cardiac catheterization lab and the emergency department.
As a result of the program and other operational efficiencies, CDF has lowered door-to-balloon times in STEMI cases by an average of 20Ï30 minutes.
Thumbs Up to EMS and the hospitals for recognizing a common goal: providing quicker care to critical patients.
Care on Wheels
A 52-year-old woman got some all-around good care when she went into cardiac arrest in early July at a crowded Chicago food-tasting event. When the unidentified Arizona tourist collapsed on her way to Taste of Chicago, a good Samaritan on a bicycle stopped and got CPR rolling. Then, two bicycle paramedics from Chicago Fire Department (CFD), Michael Guerin and Elvis Falbo, arrived and shocked the pulseless, non-breathing woman back to a normal rhythm.
The woman regained consciousness and reportedly asked them, "Where am I?"
"I_ve been a paramedic for 15 years, and this is the first time I_ve defibrillated someone and had them wake up and start talking," Guerin said.
According to CFD assistant deputy fire commissioner of EMS operations Marc Levison, three two-person bike teams cover Taste of Chicago with a response time of less than two minutes. They respond to 15Ï20 medical emergencies a day over the food fest_s 10-day run. The event draws an average of 300,000 guests a day, so rolling out cardiac care as fast as a good outcome demands is an amazing feat. A round of applause goes to one astute bystander, two quick responders and a great CFD program.
Strike with Caution
On a recent trip to British Columbia, one of our JEMS editorial board members assisted with an unconscious woman until fire/rescue and a British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS) unit arrived (which they did in four to five minutes). As the patient was being loaded, he couldn_t help but notice that the ambulance sitting outside with its emergency lights on was marked with an ˙ON STRIKEÓ decal.
He wondered, as does JEMS, how patients and their families feel to see an emergency crew coming from an ambulance marked like this. Regardless of the political struggle, suggesting to the public that the onboard paramedics may be doing less than 100% when they_re responding to a real-world emergency call just doesn_t seem right.
As we reported in ˙On Strike! But Still Working,Ó June 2009 Priority Traffic (www.jems.com/journal), 3,500 BCAS paramedics went on strike April 1, refusing to perform ˙nonessential tasksÓ until their union reached agreement with the provincial government on wages and working conditions.
In that article, we quoted B.J. Chute, director of public education for the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 873), as saying, ˙We_re not in a position to refuse service to the public, nor do we wish to do so.Ó But with unprofessional and disturbing messages like this on the side of their rigs, the public might be the ones who refuse service.JEMS