Times West Virginian, Fairmont
When an individual is having a heart attack, every second matters in getting them treated to ensure they will not only survive, but maintain a healthy heart after their trauma.
For a few months this past summer, the Marion County Rescue Squad could not transfer patients to an emergency department within Marion County, after Fairmont Regional Medical Center closed in May. Michael Angelucci, administrator of the Marion County Rescue Squad, in some cases, this added up to 30 minutes to a patient’s transport to a hospital.
“That was a delay in getting patients to the nearest hospital,” Angelucci said. “We would have to tack on sometimes another 30 minutes or so going to Morgantown or going to Bridgeport, so that was a challenge for our crews.”
Despite this challenge, Angelucci said the EMS and paramedics transported heart attack victims in a timely manner, and for the sixth year in a row, the Marion County Rescue Squad has received recognition through the American Heart Association for quick response times for people experiencing heart emergencies throughout the county.
Officials of the American Heart Association started the Mission: Lifeline awards in 2014 when they realized EMS squads play an important role in saving people who experience symptoms of heart attack or stroke.
For this work, the American Heart Association honored the Marion County Rescue Squad with its Bronze Plus award for 2019. Cynthia Keely, quality improvement manager with the American Heart Association, said the agency has been a trailblazer for West Virginia ever since the awards program was put in place.
“We’re recognizing EMS agencies for quickly doing assessments on patients that are having any sort of symptoms of chest pain,” Keely said. “The first year for the award was 2014, and they were the first and only to be awarded that year for the state.”
The bronze level recognition denotes that the Marion County Rescue Squad transported and helped in part to treat patients experiencing different severity levels of heart problems for at least one quarter of 2019. These ratings go up to a gold level. Keely said the Plus measure also means the rescue squad administered electrocardiograms to patients when necessary.
“We have six measures and we also have a plus measure,” Keely said. “The plus was ‘Of those patients who received the ECG, the ECG was done within 10 minutes or less.’ They were really consistent about making sure that 10 minutes or less as soon as they are on scene recognizing specific signs and symptoms of heart attack that led them to believe they need to do an EKG ASAP.”
Angelucci said many rescue squads throughout West Virginia face challenges in transport every day, considering the rural landscape of many towns and cities. With the poor road conditions in mind, Angelucci said he is happy the Marion County Rescue Squad was able to reach the bronze level recognition.
“It is very rural in West Virginia, so it takes us additional time to get patients to a hospital versus an EMS agency in larger metropolitan cities,” Angelucci said. “We still met the guidelines which are very, very strict, but it just goes to show the great teamwork through our EMTs and paramedics, our first responders, our fire departments and the great cooperation from our regional hospitals that we were able to meet those time marks.”
Keely said the different levels of recognition through Mission: Lifeline give standard baselines to EMS agencies around the country, because transport times should always be a focus of their staff members.
“There are metrics that they can meet to say they are a high quality agency focused on what are standard guidelines and practices,” Keely said.
Angelucci said he is proud of his crew for being able to maintain a good standard.
“Every second matters when you are having a heart attack,” Angelucci said. “It’s precious heart tissue that is dying with the passing of every minute, so to see that we were recognized nationally, that is quite an accomplishment and something to be proud of.”
Email Eddie Trizzino at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.
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