Posted January 17, 2013 at 11:09 am

Emergency Medical Technicians needed in Miller

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Wanted: More EMTs for the Hand County Ambulance crew.

Hand County is presently in need of additional EMTs in order to ensure emergency coverage and patient transport to regional facilities.

According to former ambulance director, Tom Lichty, nearly all Hand County EMTs are employed, and are not always available to respond, especially if a patient needs to be transported to a different facility. “The transfers can take several hours. For instance, a transfer to Sioux Falls takes up most of a day.”

Lichty said hopes are to train more hospital staff. “Monty Thury was a hospital employee as well as an EMT, and since he’s moved, we could use more hospital employees who have EMT training.”

The Hand County Ambulance Service plans to conduct an EMT class, beginning Tuesday, Feb. 5. At least six must be registered in order to hold the class.

Debbie Pullman, director of finance at Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital, said any person in the area interested in taking the class may do so. “Scott Larson from Highmore teaches the class, and people from Wessington, Highmore and other nearby communities can take the training in Miller.”

EMT-basics receive 110 hours of training. Anyone 18 years of age and older may sign up for the class. Once they have completed the training, they must pass a test in order to be licensed as an EMT.

Once training and testing is completed, the EMT will be ready to provide care to the sick or injured in emergency medical settings. People’s lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of EMTs who respond to those emergency 911 calls.

Bryan Breitling, hospital administrator, says the training is beneficial for anyone, whether they plan to become an EMT or not. If they have the first responder training, they can use that knowledge should an emergency arise.

However, the hope is that more people will be interested in training to become an EMT. “What we’re looking for are people from the community who are interested in becoming first responders,” he said. “You never know when friends, neighbors or a relative will need emergency assistance. EMTs are usually the first on the scene of an accident or a health incident. They are trained to provide that critical service.”

Breitling says that in FY 2012, there were 125 EMT calls, where the ambulance goes to the scene and picks up a patient. There were also 83 transfers, when a patient in the hospital needs to be transferred to another facility. In addition, there were 24 “stand-bys,” when the ambulance is present “just in case,” such as at football games or car races.

Add it all up, seldom a day goes by that the EMTs are not summoned for some type of service, and, certainly, the hours range from the very early to the very late. The people who are EMTs must be prepared, to respond at a moment’s notice. Usually, a minimum of three EMTs are necessary to respond to an emergency.

Pullman notes that trauma or medical emergencies touch every person’s life at one time or another. When a person becomes seriously ill or is injured and 911 is dialed, the phone is answered by an Emergency Medical Services Dispatcher. That EMS dispatcher sends EMTs to the scene.

When EMTs complete patient care at the scene, the patient is transported to a local hospital, and sometimes is transferred by ambulance to another facility. The EMTs work under procedures (protocol) approved by local physicians.

The make-up of an EMT crew is a local decision and is based upon local resources. The Hand County Ambulance Service is a paid volunteer service working through the Hand County Memorial Hospital and coordinated with the Hand County Fire Department and Hand County Emergency Management.

Although EMTs are paid for their time through funds from ambulance revenue, that is hardly the incentive to become an EMT. Pullman stated, “EMTs are serious about providing the best possible care under a variety of circumstances. They’ve made a commitment.”

However, it’s obvious that with a volunteer service, it isn’t certain how many EMTs will respond in any situation. Said Pullman, “EMTs have jobs, families and other commitments. They aren’t obligated to answer a call; they’re not always available. That’s why it’s so important to have enough trained EMTs available, so there is always immediate response.”

The ambulance service is appreciative of employers who support their employees that participate in the Hand County EMS. However, some jobs aren’t the type that would allow an employee to be gone for a period of time during work hours.

It is especially a challenge to find available EMTs when a patient needs to be transferred to another medical facility. That’s why it is so important to build up the number of skilled EMTs.

If you’re interested in taking the EMT class, or you want more information about what is involved, call ambulance director Kelly Fernholz at 204-0770, or call the hospital at 853-2421.