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Rising to the Challenge: Local EMTs and Paramedics Battle Pandemic… and Mother Nature

Rising to the Challenge: Local EMTs and Paramedics Battle Pandemic… and Mother Nature

by Mary Beth TeSelle, Sponsored Content
This week, May 15-21, is National EMS Week, recognizing EMTs and paramedics who are first on the scene of emergencies, illness, and disasters in our communities. Pictured are members of the Dignity Health Sierra Nevada ambulance service team: (left to right) Kevin Murphy, Ricky Hurtado, Wiley Drummond, Kristine Sommers, Kylie Phillips, and Kristof Varga.

During times of emergency, illness, or disaster, we often take it for granted that someone will respond to our call for help. Fortunately, there is someone to answer that call – our local EMS responders.

This week, May 15-21, is National EMS (Emergency Medical Services) Week, a time set aside for the past 47 years to recognize and celebrate the men and women in our communities who answer the call for help, regardless of when and where the call comes from.

Locally, we are fortunate that our community hospital, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, operates its own ambulance service, ensuring a seamless transfer of care from community to hospital.

Paul Legge, EMS Operations Supervisor at SNMH, says that fact plays an important role in the care that you and your loved ones receive.

“The relationships between EMS providers and the hospital Emergency Department is critical to providing top level care to our patients in their time of need,” Legge explains. “Nevada County is fortunate to have both an outstanding staff at the SNMH emergency department and on the ambulance in pre-hospital care. The paramedics and the emergency department physicians have a uniquely strong relationship and communicate well together, ensuring the best possible patient outcome in crisis situations.”

Legge points out that critical care begins the moment a paramedic begins to gather key pieces of information and provide care to the patient on the scene. As the paramedic arrives at the emergency department, the paramedic has already communicated critical pieces of information to the emergency department physician and their team is already standing at the ED entrance ensuring a timely and smooth patient transfer to the ED staff.

For the ambulance service, having the right equipment is key to providing on-scene care. Recently, thanks to the donations of the community, the service was able to add another ambulance to its fleet.

“We are genuinely thankful for all the effort and help from the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation in making the purchase of our new ambulance possible,” Legge explains. “We operate as many as five active ambulances during peak hours of need every day, with the ability to upstaff to seven active ambulances should the need arise.”

The ambulance service not only responds to 911 calls, they also help to transfer patients to specialty care centers in other cities. All of that driving amounts to around 60,000 miles annually on each ambulance.

The newest ambulance replaces an older ambulance that was high in mileage and ready to be put out of service.

In addition, the new ambulance is four-wheel-drive capable, which will allow the team to access some of Nevada County’s hard to reach residences.

The challenges created by the combination of our region’s geography and weather really came to the forefront during last December’s epic snowstorm, known as ‘snowmageddon.”

“There is no better example of rising to a challenge than the ambulance service’s response to a pandemic and ‘snowmageddon’,” says Dot Mitchell, Base Hospital Coordinator, SNMH Ambulance and Emergency Services. “During ‘snowmageddon,’ they had difficulty finding addresses as landmarks and signs were covered. Many times, they could not actually get close to patients’ homes. They parked where it was safe to do so and then went on foot to find their patients, carrying the equipment they thought they’d need. When they returned to their vehicles, they sometimes carried the patient as well as their equipment.”

This year, the EMS Week theme is “Rising to the Challenge,” in recognition of obstacles exactly like what local crews faced during the snowstorm.

Legge says facing such challenges is inherent to the job of first responders, but became even more so during the pandemic.

“Rising to the challenge is exactly what our EMTs [Emergency Medical Technicians] and paramedics have done over the past two years of the pandemic,” he says. “The truth is that practitioners of medicine in general and those in pre-hospital care have been greatly tested with the endurance required to make it through the pandemic. The job of EMTs and paramedics is already routinely challenging as they often face stressful emergency situations and respond with compassion, professionalism and excellence day after day and call after call. Doing all of this and attempting to remain safe during a pandemic has tested the limits of many.”

Indeed, as medicine has advanced over the 47 years that we have recognized EMS Week, the role of the EMT and paramedic advanced too.

“The days of simply transporting patients to the hospital are long gone,” Legge says. “Paramedics and EMTs now render increasing measures of critical and lifesaving care on the 911 scene. Their scope of practice and ability to render advanced care are continuing to yield improved outcomes for all types of emergencies, both medical and trauma. I’m extremely proud of those who serve in pre-hospital care and consider them genuine heroes!”



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