Last Word: Sunstar Runs on Sunshine, AP Maligns Paramedics
Sunstar Runs on Sunshine Sunstar EMS in Pinellas County, Fla., has found an innovative solution to keep equipment batteries charged: solar panels. Terence Ramotar, director of support services, says the 45–50 ambulances Sunstar deploys need a lot of fully charged batteries to run power stretchers, portable ECGs, laptops and cell phones. Paramedics get fresh batteries when they report for work and turn them in at the end of their shift. However, the batteries don’t hold a charge for an entire 12-hour shift, so supervisors must deliver charged batteries to crews throughout the day. When Ramotar looked into how other mobile vehicles dealt with electricity needs, he found that some RVs and sailboats use solar panels to power appliances. He then used a shed roof to test his assumption that a 2'x3' panel on the top of an ambulance could produce enough output to power portable equipment in an ambulance. Sunstar took delivery of two solar panel-equipped ambulances from American Emergency Vehicles in early December, ran more tests for about a month and deployed the vehicles in mid-January. "The solar panel captures energy, turns it into electricity that is stored in a main battery, which then powers the rechargers for the battery-operated equipment," Ramotar says. The main battery can store up to 72 hours of electricity, so overcast days and nights aren’t a problem. Also, the vehicle’s alternator has been wired to be the main battery, so the ambulance engine can provide backup power for equipment and the solar-powered main battery can serve as a back-up battery for the vehicle. Within the next 24 months, Sunstar plans to replace all its ambulances, and each will come complete with a solar panel. Thumbs Up for an idea that benefits the company and contributes to the health of the environment. AP Maligns Paramedics Just about every paper in the U.S. ran an Associated Press (AP) story in December with the headline "Paramedics accused of molesting patients." It reported that during the past 18 months, "at least 129 ambulance attendants across the U.S. have been accused of sex-related crimes on duty or off." Yikes! We can just imagine how many people instantly decided they would forever drive themselves or their loved ones to the hospital rather than dialing 9-1-1 and risking a ride with a sexual predator. Few people likely read the entire story and considered the reality. First, "accused" doesn’t mean convicted—or even charged. (How many times have you transported a patient with mental-health issues who could have made an unfounded accusation against you?) Second, just before listing "some of the more shocking cases," the AP reporter noted, "Exactly how many of these EMTs were alleged to have committed their crimes on the job is unclear." And finally, those who read the entire story would find there are some 900,000 EMTs and paramedics in the U.S. So 127 out of 900,000 is a really, really small number—one-hundredth of a percent! (We wonder how many physicians or nurses are accused of sexual impropriety—on and off the job—every 18 months? Having that number would likely put things into perspective.) Of course, we’re appalled that any EMTs and paramedics have molested patients. And we believe states should conduct or require background checks for EMS practitioners. But sensationalized stories that needlessly scare the public do a disservice to EMS and the patients who need us. Don’t Need No Education? In a scandal that could prove not just inconvenient, but quite costly, nine police officers in Hamilton, Mass., are under fire for fabricating medical training records for the past eight years. The Hamilton Police Department (HPD) requires its officers to be state-certified EMTs and to request courses on procedures they’re rarely called upon to perform in the field. But the training officer didn’t speak up when courses weren’t being requested (he hadn’t given a course on glucometer use for at least five years) and, when asked, the police chief didn’t know who was supervising the use of the oversight-required equipment. Now the department is at the center of a state investigation and the Office of EMS has suspended the town’s ambulance license for a year and pulled the licenses of the nine officers, including the chief, saying they "endangered public health and safety." Worse still, following revocation of the ambulance license, the regional Medicare carrier began a process to yank the town’s ambulance service provider number. Without that number, HPD can’t submit claims to Medicare. Hamilton stopped ambulance service Sept. 24, but $65,000 in bills to the federal government and private insurers remain uncollected. Hamilton residents are incensed that the officers were paid for training they never took, and allegations are even surfacing that public officials may have known about the problem going as far back as 2000. Thumbs Down to everyone who turned a blind eye to this deceit.
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