NHRMC's EMS becomes state's first 'model system' 01/19/2004 New Hanover Regional EMS on Tuesday became the state’s first “model system” as designated by the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services at the N.C. OEMS Advisory Council Meeting in Raleigh.
State reviewers surveyed the service during a site visit last month. Reviewers said they were impressed with the data collection, quality management, education, policies and procedures, and resources with the EMS system.
“The resources here just are not going to be found in other parts of North Carolina,” said Ed Brown, assistant chief of N.C. OEMS, after that visit.
For the purposes of model designation, a “system” includes all emergency medical agencies in a county, or in this case, the Wilmington and New Hanover County fire departments, all seven volunteer fire departments, the Ogden-New Hanover Rescue Squad, and ambulances at General Electric and KoSa. The lead agency’s ability to collaborate with other agencies is a major component of the review.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center assumed responsibility for emergency medical services in June 1998, removing a $2 million obligation from the county’s taxpayers. In the four years since, the agency has added base stations, vehicles and training for staff. To improve response, it switched from 24-hour to 12-hour shifts. New Hanover Regional EMS is now a $4 million service funded entirely by the health network.
The department integrated with VitaLink, the existing mobile intensive care service, and last year added AirLink, the region’s first air ambulance service. New Hanover Regional EMS paramedics also added surf rescue service.
Since assuming responsibility, response time has decreased by more than 25 percent and the save rate on cardiac arrest improved from near zero to more than 20 percent.
“This is a proud moment in the history of this network and this region as a whole,” said Bill Atkinson, Ph. D., president and CEO of New Hanover Health Network. “Our Board of Trustees recognized from the start the potential for hospital-based emergency medical services, and it’s rewarding to see that vision being carried out, not only with this recognition today but through saved lives and improved outcomes of our patients.”
State legislators revised the rules and regulations governing emergency medical services last year and set Dec. 31, 2002 as a deadline for each county to either be designated an EMS system or a model system. The deadline will likely be extended to July 2003.
New Hanover Regional EMS was asked to be the first hospital-based system to apply for model status. After eight months of preparation, it requested a review under the new rules.
Mr. Brown listed four primary differences between an EMS system and a model system. They are:
Universal levels of patient care. A model system provides the same standard of care anywhere in the county. The standard here is paramedic-level care.
Emergency Medical Dispatch is available in model systems. New Hanover Regional EMS encouraged the Sheriff’s Department last year to implement priority medical dispatch.
Model systems bring together public health, other providers and the community in providing pre-hospital care.
Model systems have a higher standard of equipment and available medications.
Keith Harris, regional manager for the eastern office of OEMS, said the level of collaboration among New Hanover Regional EMS and other county providers is remarkable.
“It’s not territorial,” he said. “They communicate and work together. I see a desire here to do the best they can for patients. They hire not to fill a position, but to do patient care.”