PAOLA — The medical care provided in the back of an ambulance has evolved dramatically over the past 30 years since Miami County Emergency Medical Services was formed by consolidating two existing ambulances services into one.
Miami County EMS is planning an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, June 29, to mark its 30th anniversary, and to provide the public with tours of its remodeled and expanded EMS Station No. 1, which is located at 32765 Clover Drive.
The open house and anniversary celebration is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include a free lunch in addition to the tours.
Miami County EMS began with the hiring of Mike Welter as its first director on April 1, 1989. The consolidation of the two previous services became official in June 1989, EMS Chief David Ediger said.
In 1989, EMS handled 732 calls. Last year, EMS handled 3,553 calls, with 2,460 resulting in transfers, Ediger said. EMS averages about 10 calls per day, but ambulances often will be gone for an hour or more when a transfer is needed, depending on the hospital location and traffic, he said.
The agency has grown from the original nine employees hired under former director Welter to 23 full-time, 13 part-time and a half dozen reserves under current Chief Ediger and Deputy Chief Frank Burrow, who was one of the original nine people hired in 1989.
“We have three ambulances staffed 24/7, with advanced life support in every ambulance,” Ediger said. “All the ambulances are staffed with at least a paramedic and an EMT.”
Burrow said when the service started in 1989, everyone carried radios and would get paged out when a call came in.
“Basically we were on call, and you had five minutes to get to station and go,” Burrow said. “That created some issues when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to get the car started up in the wintertime.”
Today, when a call comes in, an ambulance leaves the station in 30 seconds during a daytime call and between 30 and 60 seconds at night, Ediger said.
In the 1980s, medical technology was limited for ambulances, and the basic premise was simply to get a patient to an emergency room as fast as possible.
“It was basically you get to a scene, scoop them up and go,” Ediger, who has 30 years of experience, said.
Speed is still of the essence, but EMS staff can do so much more with the tools and training at their disposal.
“The field of emergency medicine has changed to the point now when an ambulance shows up it’s almost like bringing the emergency room to you,” Ediger said.
“With exception of X-ray and lab work, pretty much anything else that would happen in the emergency department within the first maybe 15 to 30 minutes is probably something that can be done in the back of the ambulance,” he said.
Ediger said a correlation can be tied between the treatment on the scene to the length of stay in hospital and the ability to recover from trauma or another medical event.
“If we get to them quickly and start treatment, we can certainly have a pretty significant impact on patient outcome,” Ediger said.
EMS moved into its current location in 1996, Ediger said.
The station, just off U.S. Highway 169 south of Paola, has had a variety of ongoing issues, dating back several years.
In 2012, commissioners first discussed a number of problems, such as trouble with the septic system, bathroom fungus, stucco and garage door issues, roof gutter discharge, misaligned doors, landscaping and drainage concerns, heaving floors and an overall lack of space.
“We’re sleeping four to a bedroom and three to another,” Ediger said. “The building has had foundation problems, doors that wouldn’t shut, walls that move. When the wind blows, in the day room the ceiling tiles have fallen down.”
Commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 29, 2018, to award a contract for construction of the new ambulance bay and living quarters addition for the station to Legacy Contractors, LLC. The Paola-based firm also was chosen to replace the roof on the existing portion of the building.
Burrow said now each person will have their own sleeping quarter, and the building will include an expanded kitchen and dining space. The addition also includes an exercise room with fitness equipment and a large storage room. Burrow said security cameras also have been put in place, and a couple of TV monitors inside the addition will allow staff to check on the location of each ambulance out on a call at any time of the day.
“We’ve more than doubled the size of our living quarters and office space,” Ediger said.
Ediger and Burrow said they are hoping for a good crowd at the open house.
“We are proud of our service, and our station,” Ediger said.