Orange Cross takes critical care to a new level by Jeff Pederson
Over the past three years, Orange Cross Ambulance Service has made its presence felt in city of Sheboygan Falls in a big way.
Since opening a service site at the Sheboygan Falls Fire Station in January 2008, Sheboygan Falls residents have enjoyed fast response times and cutting-edge pre-hospital medical assistance in critical emergency situations.
In the past year, a new initiative has put Orange Cross at the head of a nationwide movement to provide additional critical care services during medical transports.
According to Orange Cross Executive Director Gerry Isbell, a new critical care transport program was put into place last April.
“It used to be that hospitals would staff critical emergency calls and transports with doctors, registered nurses or specially trained flight teams,” Isbell said. “With this new critical care initiative, our paramedics are able to provide care to critically ill patients on transports from local facilities to regional hospitals that offer advanced care.
“This allows the hospitals to keep their doctors and nurses on site, while it gives our paramedics the opportunity to stretch their skills and provide a highly valuable medical service in extreme emergency situations,” he said.
Orange Cross now offers critical care paramedic services on each of its shifts.
“Since January, we’ve had the ability to provide critical care on all of our shifts,” Isbell said. “That means we have at least one paramedic trained in critical care on every shift, 24-7. We currently have six critical care paramedics, and or goal is to continue to increase that number on a regular basis.”
Newly hired Operations Director and Training Coordinator Matthew Hill is responsible for leading the critical care initiative.
Hill, who assumed his new position at Orange Cross last December, has plenty of experience under his belt in critical care.
Prior to his arrival in the Sheboygan area, Hill where he served as a flight paramedic in Marshfield.
“A great deal of my background is in critical care,” Hill said. “As a flight paramedic, critical care is what I did on a daily basis. I am excited about the opportunity to join Orange Cross and help develop and expand the critical care paramedic program that has been put into place here.
“Having specialized critical care paramedics on staff on all shifts is a huge benefit to the community we serve,” he said. “This is something that more ambulance services are beginning to do throughout the county. In this area, Orange Cross is setting the standard for this type of specialized care.”
In order to attain critical care certification, Orange Cross paramedics must complete 90 to 110 hours of training, which allows them to use advance methods of monitoring heart, breathing and blood conditions in serious trauma patients.
“Critical care often involves working with patients with internal bleeding that are being transported for surgery,” Hill said. “The critical care program also gives the paramedics the ability to administer blood and adjust medication based on the patients needs.
“Ventilators can also be initiated and monitored, as well as cardiac monitoring machines, for heart attack patients,” he said. “These are things that go above and beyond the regular duties of a paramedic.”
Critical care paramedics also have extensive education and training in the areas of pharmacology, neurology, toxicology, shock treatment and burn injuries.
Orange Cross requires critical care paramedics to maintain advanced certifications in pre-hospital, neonatal pediatric and cardiac life support.
After completing the training program last December, Rob Syzman and Rebecca Versey are the newest critical-care certified paramedics on the Orange Cross staff.
“With the addition of three critical care paramedics and a training coordinator that has extensive experience in critical care transport, we have been able to expand our transport services considerably by offering quick transport from area facilities to tertiary facilities that provide critical interventions that are not always available locally,” Isbell said. “This program truly sets us apart in our coverage area.”
Another new initiative for Orange Cross is the STEMI program, which grants paramedics the ability to diagnose and treat heart attack patients more efficiently and effectively.
“We recently formed a partnership with Aurora Hospital in Grafton and St. Mary’s Ozaukee Hospital in Mequon that allows our paramedics to diagnose heart attacks in the field and bypass transport local hospitals,” Hill said. “By transferring serious heart attack patients directly to the cardiac labs in Grafton and Mequon, we can save a great deal of time and possibly even save a life.”
Hill Said a strong working relationship with Orange Cross Medical Director Dr. Suzanne Martens is key in striving to meet quality assurance and improvement goals.
“Dr. Martens has a background as an EMT, so she really understands our point of view,” he said. “It is great to work with someone who has an appreciate for paramedics and what we go through on a daily basis.”
While emergency transport lies at the heart of Orange Cross, Hill says non-emergency medical services are also a major focus.
“We also do a lot of non-emergency medical transport from nursing homes to clinics,” he said. “Those services are also very important to us. With the geriatric population growing, there is an increased need for those need of transport services. Our job is to focus on the whole picture and take the lead in providing topquality service for everyone.”
Along with the city of Sheboygan Falls, Orange Cross covers the villages of Howards Grove and Kohler and the towns of Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan, Wilson, Mosel, Lima and Herman.
Currently, Orange Cross has stations at St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, the Sheboygan Falls Fire Station and its dispatch headquarters, at 1919 Ashland St. in Sheboygan.
Since opening at Sheboygan Memorial Hospital in 1979, Orange Cross has responded to over 100,000 emergency and non-emergency calls throughout Sheboygan County.
In 1985, St. Nicholas Hospital entered into a partnership with Memorial Hospital, and today Orange Cross is co-owned by Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Hospital and St. Nicholas Hospital.
Orange Cross, which is a private non-profit organization, has a staff of 35 employees, including 28 paramedics. In 2010, Orange Cross increased its call volume to 3,600 calls.
Looking ahead to the remainder of 2011 and beyond, Isbell is pleased with the direction Orange Cross is headed.
“We recently signed a three-year contract to serve as the ambulance service for Sheboygan County through December, 2013,” Isbell said. “I am very happy to say that we will not be raising our rates this year, which is something we have not been able to avoid over the last few years. We will also be receiving a new ambulance in mid-April.”
In addition, Isbell is extremely happy with Orange Cross’ presence in Sheboygan Falls.
“Having a station in Sheboygan Falls has been a winning situation for us and for the people of Sheboygan Falls as well,” he said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better partnership than the one we have in Sheboygan Falls. The cohesiveness among everyone involved has been remarkable.”
Within its service area, Orange Cross Ambulance can be reached by dialing 911 or its 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week dispatch center direct line, at 451-9111.