As county and hospital officials continue to wrestle with the fallout from a medical transport debacle that may have contributed to the death of Marco resident Paul Anderson, Marco Fire Chief Mike Murphy wants to remind residents their best bet in a medical emergency is to dial 911.
On October 21, NCH Healthcare System withdrew its state license, effective immediately, that allows it to transport patients from Marco Island, leaving full responsibility in Collier County hands. A new, non-emergency transport service, Ambitrans Medical Transport, has just been licensed to provide non-emergency services in Collier County, according to the Board of County Commissioners. However, the service will not begin before January 2012.
“People need to realize that if you dial 911, we can be anywhere on the island in six minutes. We can run many of the same tests [that the ER does], medically treat you and transport you, if that’s necessary,” explains Murphy.
The Marco fire station is staffed with paramedics 24 hours a day, a county EMS truck is housed there and the fire trucks can also respond to medical emergencies. The rub is that the vehicles themselves still only have a fraction of the medicines that are standard on emergency vehicles in other Florida counties.
Currently, there are 12 basic medications on Collier County EMS vehicles. Lee County emergency transport vehicles have 27. Approval for all medications provided comes from the Collier County Medical Director’s office. The requested medication in the Paul Anderson case was Versed, a ‘twilight’ drug that sedates a patient just enough to allow emergency responders to perform uncomfortable procedures such as intubation. For a comparison of the approved medications available in Collier County, see the list following the story.
The Marco Island Fire Department responds to an average of 3,000 calls per year. Chief Murphy is continually surprised by the tendency of residents to take medical emergencies into their own hands. “People say to us, ‘why do you have to send the big red truck?’ but remember, we have a large number of mid and high rise buildings here and not all elevators will accommodate stretchers.”
There are a number of advantages to calling for EMS services, sirens and drama notwithstanding. It’s essentially a free, on site medical evaluation that can make a critical, lifesaving judgment call. “We see many people who have fallen and they don’t realize it’s due to a mini-stroke. If you’re a diabetic, we can tell you exactly what your blood-sugar level is,” explains Murphy.
A call from an EMS tech can get an off-duty doctor’s attention faster. Personnel can take a patient to the most appropriate medical facility, because not all area care centers offer the same services. Caring friends and family members are also unequipped to deal with an emergency that escalates while driving a car.
As season approaches the city and Chief Murphy hope to continue to urge residents to ‘dial, don’t drive.’ “At the end of the day, we’re here to help you make a decision based on fact.”
Area Medical Center Facts:
• According to the NCH website, the Marco Healthcare center is NOT classified as an urgent care facility. Its hours are 8AM to 7:30PM, 7 days a week. The services it offers: adult and pediatric care, ‘acute’ medical problems, lacerations or injuries, worker’s comp cases, and lab/x-ray services.
• In contrast, NCH’s Urgent Care centers do operate “like a miniature Emergency Room,” according to the company website. They are located on Vanderbilt Beach Road and Sierra Meadows Blvd., in Naples.
• The emergency care facility closest to Marco Island is Physician’s Regional at 8300 Collier Boulevard. It posts the wait times in its ER on its website, www.physiciansregional.com.
Lee County EMS carries more medications than Collier EMS:
Collier County ALS/Engine Meds:
4. Dextrose 50%
6. Epinephrine 1:1000
7. Epinephrine 1:10,000
9. Oral Glucose
10. Sodium Bicarb
11. Atropine Sulphate
Lee County ALS/Engine Meds:
5. Atropine Sulphate
10. Epinephrine 1:1000
11. Epinephrine 1:10000
20. Magnesium Sulphate
24. Sodium Bicarb