Greene County EMS receives $25K grant from Heart Association

Also gets OK to purchase new equipment with contracted services budget line

Heart attack patients in Greene County may have faster access to critically important medical care thanks to a grant from the American Heart Association (AHA).

Greene County Emergency Medical Services Inc has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the AHA for 12-lead electrocardiogram equipment as part of Mission: Lifeline, an AHA community-based initiative aimed at improving the system of care for heart attack patients throughout rural Iowa.

Greene County EMS owner and paramedic Dennis Morlan explained to the county supervisors Monday morning that his service already has the capability to provide 12-lead cardiac diagnostic tests away from the medical center, but the new equipment will allow paramedics to transmit the test data to Greene County Medical Center, Des Moines hospitals, and several others that can provide advanced cardiac care.

“For a patient suffering a heart attack, time is heart muscle lost,” Morlan said. A heart attack patient needs to be in a cath lab within three hours for the best outcome. With the new equipment, diagnostic information can be sent to doctors and decisions can be made more quickly about transfers. For example, a helicopter could be en route to the helipad at Greene County Medical Center before the patient arrives there, and the patient could go directly from the ambulance to the helicopter, saving valuable time.

Protocols will be in place to arrange for rapid transport of cardiac patients to the appropriate care centers. “I couldn’t be happier than to get that $25,000 grant,” Morlan told the supervisors.

According to the AHA, each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans have the most serious type of heart attack known as an ST-elevated myocardial infarction, or STEMI, in which blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart. Unless the blockage is eliminated quickly, the patient’s life is at serious risk. Currently, around two-thirds of STEMI patients fail to receive the best available treatments to restore blood flow. Mission: Lifeline seeks to save lives by closing the gaps that separate STEMI patients from timely access to appropriate treatments.

Mission: Lifeline will enhance many critical elements of an optimal STEMI system of care: a system-wide data tool for quality measurement and improvement; ongoing medical provider training and STEMI education; coordination of protocols for rural EMS and hospital personnel; regional plans for rapid transport of patients; and a public education campaign on heart attack symptoms and the need to call 9-1-1. Funding focused on enhancing rural systems is being awarded for hospitals and ambulance services to enhance 12 L ECG equipment and training.

The project is made possible by $6.1 million in funding including a $4.6 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. Additional funding came from the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, Principal Financial Group Foundation, Unity Point Health – Des Moines, the Midwest Affiliate of the American Heart Association, and other supporters.

Morlan also told the supervisors of a trip he and his wife Marcia, GCEMS co-owner, took to Arrow Manufacturing in Rock Rapids to see the new ambulance, on target for delivery soon. “She’s going to be a pretty girl,” Dennis Morlan said about the rig.

While there, the Morlans saw a demonstration of a Stryker Power Load cot, an electric cot that not only raises and lowers a patient, but will also slide the patient into an ambulance. The Morlans were impressed enough with the cot that they offered to purchase it out of the annual contract paid by the county to GCEMS for services.

Morlan explained that his crews are transporting more and more overweight patients, putting the paramedics at risk for lift injuries. He has one electric cot that will raise a patient but doesn’t have the capability of sliding him into the ambulance. That cot weighs 130 pounds, making getting a heavy patient into an ambulance even more of a challenge.

He estimates the Stryker Power Load cot could be used on 65 percent of their calls. It will reduce his payroll cost because he won’t have to have extra EMTs go to calls to help lift.

The Morlans also found a used Stryker stair chair, a device used to transport people down or up stairs, that would replace their 40-year-old model.

The Stryker Power Load cot and the stair chair together cost $33,250. The county contracts with GCEMS at a rate of $3,200 per month ($38,400 annually). The supervisors approved purchasing both pieces of equipment, with payment from the county’s budget line item for ambulance services. In effect, the Morlans are shorting their own wages for the purchase of the equipment.

Morlan also told the supervisors to watch for plans to celebrate Greene County EMS’s 30th anniversary in July.

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