By MARK SCOHIER
The life-saving services provided by Levy County Emergency Medical Services may benefit from the installation of new equipment on county ambulances designed to improve the survivability of heart patients being rushed to the hospital.
“It’s a benefit for all patients with any kind of heart condition,” said LCEMS Director Trish Seibold in a recent interview.
The equipment, already used by Alachua County Fire Rescue, will enable EMTs to send more complete electrocardiograms (EKGs) to the hospital while patients are still in transit, according to Seibold.
“It will help the survival rate quite a bit.”
Pam Thornton, director of North Florida Regional Hospital’s emergency department, said the equipment, costing about $2,500 per ambulance, should be installed sometime within the next few weeks.
“The equipment’s already ordered,” she said. It’s being paid for by NFRMC’s parent company, Hospital Corporation of America.
Thornton said technology like the new EKG systems is especially important to places like Levy County, being relatively long distances from hospitals.
Chiefland, according to mapquest.com, is about 36 miles from both North Florida Regional Hospital and Shands. Thornton said a patient has only about 90 minutes to get blood back to his or her heart tissue from the time they come in through the emergency room doors.
“It’s called door-to-balloon time,” she said, describing the process of getting a heart patient evaluated and treated, a process that ends with successful inflation of a small balloon that allows blood to once again flow through a blocked artery.
Typically, Thornton said, NFRMC’s door-to-balloon time averages about 63 minutes, but with the new EKG equipment some of those times can be cut in half because doctors already have a good idea of what’s going on with the patient before they ever enter the ER doors. She said she recently had a case that took 29 minutes, thanks to the new equipment.
“This is extremely important to the viability of our patients.”