HILLSDALE — Miami County Emergency Medical Services’ ambulance station at Hillsdale is not visible from Old Kansas City Road.
But the station, located in the rear of the Klaasmeyer building at the corner of Old KC Road and West 255th Street, has made a visible difference in reducing the number of times EMS is left without an available ambulance since the station opened in January.
In 2019, Miami County EMS handled 3,553 calls, with 2,460 resulting in transfers, EMS Chief David Ediger said in an earlier interview. Ambulances often will be gone for an hour or more when a transfer is needed, depending on the hospital location and traffic, he said.
When the county’s four EMS crews are out, it creates a “status zero” situation and triggers assistance from Johnson County Fire District No. 2, which impacts response time, especially if an emergency occurs in southern Miami County.
At the county commission meeting Wednesday, Sept. 16, Ediger talked about the marked reduction in status zero calls in the Hillsdale station’s nine months of existence. He estimated status zero might occur 20 times to 30 times a year now versus 120 times a year before the Hillsdale station opened.
“Adding that fourth ambulance in Hillsdale has been huge,” Ediger said. “We still get there occasionally, but usually the length of time we are at status zero is much shorter.”
Miami County’s four ambulances are housed at three locations.
In addition to Hillsdale, Miami County EMS has two ambulances at its primary station on Clover Drive south of Paola, and one ambulance housed in the Louisburg Fire Department building on Metcalf Road in Louisburg. All ambulances are staffed 24 hours, seven days a week.
County EMS has five ambulances, with one serving as a back-up. The department will soon have a sixth, specially equipped ambulance.
Chief Ediger’s impromptu Hillsdale report came up during the meeting while he was there to request the purchase of a ventilator for the new ambulance the county is to receive in December. The ambulance is being purchased with federal funds routed through the state.
“The new ambulance – authorized through the CARES funding that we’ve ordered – we won’t physically receive it until about the end of the year,” County Administrator Shane Krull said.
EMS Deputy Chief Frank Burrow said the build process for the new ambulance is about 180 days, in explaining to commissioners why the country wouldn’t take possession until late December.
“It’s probably going to be in Paola,” Burrow said of the new ambulance. “And any time we have a COVID transfer that truck will take it because it will have the built in UVC light.”
Krull said the new ambulance also will be equipped to handle bariatric patients.
Commissioner George Pretz, who was in favor of purchasing the ventilator, asked Ediger how frequently is it used.
“Right now we’re averaging about 385 calls a month or so,” Ediger said. “We’re probably using the ventilators 20 to 30 times a month. It’s a key piece of equipment.”
The commission authorized the purchase of a refurbished ventilator to match the ventilators in the other five ambulances for $13,800. A refurbished ventilator is not currently available, but Ediger was hopeful one would be by the end of the year for the new ambulance.
If a refurbished ventilator is not available, the county authorized the purchase of a new ventilator for $19,500.
Ediger also asked the commission to authorize the purchase of six ultrasound scanners to put in all six ambulances for a total cost of $28,786.40. EMS has funds available in its current budget to cover the cost.
The chief said ultrasound scanners are not new, but it would be a new piece of equipment for the EMS department. The ultrasound looks at soft tissues to give the ambulance crew an idea of what’s going on under the skin that might not be easy to detect. The image would be projected on to a tablet computer.
“It can look under the skin to identify blood clots, lung function, heart function – a lot of different uses,” Ediger said.
The machine could help the crew determine treatment and the hospital best equipped to handle the trauma patient. The image also could be viewed by an emergency room doctor while the patient is in route, once the appropriate hospital is determined.
For example, Ediger said: “If we identify (through ultrasound) there is free blood in the abdomen then we know where we can take that patient and get them right into surgery. Getting the patient to the appropriate hospital could make a huge difference on patient outcome, their survivability and their ability to recover.”
Ediger said ambulance crews spend a minimum of 20 to 25 minutes with a patient during a transport. During transport, EMS crews do everything they can to treat the patient before arriving at the emergency room to eliminate some processes and save the hospital staff time which can directly affect patient outcomes.
Commissioners approved the purchase of the six ultrasound scanners.
Ediger also reported that the call volume for county EMS is at a record level.
“We were down in April and May. The call volume dropped off significantly with COVID. But after May, June came on like gangbusters and our crews have been running their tails off ever since,” Ediger said. “Every month has been a record-setting month for us. In July and August, we were getting close to 400 calls a month – we’ve never had that many.”