Not all of the Southern Chester County EMS Medic 94 board members have direct experience with emergency medicine. To help new members become familiar with some of the equipment the unit uses, and to update the entire board on the latest changes, an informational presentation was a part of the latest board meeting, April 30.Medic 94 is an advanced life support unit with 10 fulltime and 10 part-time paramedics working from four vehicles based at the Jennersville Hospital. They also include West Grove's three fulltime and five part-time EMTs.
When an emergency call is taken, an ambulance unit is automatically dispatched, with EMTs who can provide basic life support. Medic 94 is also dispatched on 60 percent of those calls to provide advance life support including care that the EMTs cannot give such as administering medications or intubating a patient.
Operations Supervisor John Pierce showed the unit's major pieces of equipment, along with the cost, what portion of that cost was paid by grant money and the disposable cost that is passed along to patients each time the item is used.
The primary piece of equipment the paramedics use is the heart monitor /defibrillator. This very advanced machine now can record heart and blood oxygen data on paper or transmit it to the hospital. At a cost of $28,500 each, the four vehicles in Medic 94 total $114,000. "We use this piece of equipment on every patient we contact unless it's an immediate refusal [of treatment]," Pierce said, explaining that even if a person does not show symptoms of a heart attack, the equipment can pick up vital information that might not be obvious.
Most recently, Medic 94 has received training and equipment to allow them to administer therapeutic hypothermia for sudden cardiac arrest patients. The procedure involves lowering a patient's core body temperature after a successful resuscitation to improve brain and neurological function.
Other major pieces of equipment explained for the board members included the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) and the ventilator. One of the newest pieces of equipment is a small disposable "Rescue Pod" which is added to the ventilator as a kind of check valve during resuscitations. It is only good for one use, and costs $100, but it has proven very affective in cardiac arrest cases. "If that means the difference between getting someone back and not getting them back - that's what we're here for," Pierce said.
Looking at those costs and seeing the equipment first hand is helpful for the board when they are looking at reports and preparing the budget. "You hear them talk about this stuff at the board meetings, now you've seen it," board member James McLeod said.
CEO Bob Hotchkiss explained that the average per patient cost to Medic 94 is $920, but not all insurance companies will cover the full amount. "We don't look at anybody's insurance class. We take care of them and look at the insurance later," he said.
The growing number of older patients in the region presents an additional challenge for the unit, since Medicare may only reimburse patients $60 to $120 for something as serious as a cardiac arrest. "With the age restrict communities we've done a great thing for the schools, but there's an impact on EMS," Hotchkiss said.
Hotchkiss is proud to say that SCCEMS is the best in the county. "We have the best equipment and we also have some of the best people," Pierce agreed. "It's the people and the experience we have that flesh out this organization and give feet and legs to all this equipment."