Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

March 7, 2013

Fire Dept. wants to take over advanced ambulance services

Lawrence General says its people have necessary experience

The Andover Fire Department is pushing for its town ambulances and its paramedics to provide advanced life support services, but current provider Lawrence General Hospital argues that the town’s EMTs have less experience than their people.

A $146,000 bump in the town fire department’s budget for the coming year would seek to begin turning the town’s ambulances — which provide basic life support services to patients en route to a hospital — into something closer to hospitals on wheels.

“Advanced life support is patient care that’s provided by EMT paramedics that are trained at a higher level to begin fluid therapy and do other invasive skills,” Fire Chief Mike Mansfield said.

Should the town’s ambulances be upgraded to handle ALS services, Andover EMTs could perform procedures like intubations — inserting breathing tubes into patients — or 12-lead EKG heart monitoring, according to Mansfield.

“Medics (providing ALS) are taught how to read the heart algorithms that are on the screen,” Mansfield said. “They’re also trained to be able to utilize different narcotics and medications in the field as well.”

ALS services currently come from Lawrence General Hospital, so upgrading the town’s own abilities will “reduce response times by about 20 to 25 percent,” Mansfield said.

The increased cost would be $146,000 the first year, he said. While the cost would increase slightly each year, the program would pay for itself through increasing revenue, according to Mansfield.

“The projected revenue for each and every year going through 2017 covers the entire cost of program implementation,” he said.

Mansfield spoke to the Board of Selectmen about the proposal at itsr meeting this week. In response, officials with Lawrence General Hospital weighed in on the proposal afterwards.

In their presentation, LGH Advanced Life Support Services Director Paul Brennan said the hospital would “take a hit of roughly 500 patient interactions a year. Would that put us out of business? No. Would we look to augment that some way? Possibly, maybe redeploy our units in other communities.”

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