MedEvac critical care vehicles will bring the emergency room to the patient
With a fanfare of whirling blades, flashing lights and warning sirens, two ambulances and a helicopter arrived at the helipad at Lehigh Valley Health Network - Cedar Crest, Salisbury Township, but not in response to an emergency.
The new vehicles, gleaming black in the summer heat, heralded their own debut as critical care equipment for the region.
"This is the Rolls Royce of equipment compared to what I'm used to," said Sean Toris, flight paramedic with MedEvac, who worked on ambulance crews in Jersey City, N.J., before joining MedEvac. Toris is part of a team of about 75 critical care paramedics, nurses, pilots, and emergency medical technicians who will staff the new ambulance trucks and helicopter and crew members who come to the staff with emergency care experience.
"A thousand years is an easy estimation," said crew member Barry Mitchneck, R.N., M.S.N., patient care specialist MedEvac, of the combined years of experience held by the team.
Each ambulance has onboard a critical care nurse, a critical care paramedic and an EMT. In stark terms, the EMT drives and helps with equipment, the paramedic attends to a patient's airway and the nurse handles overall patient care.
As a critical care transport, the new ambulances are equipped with more specialized equipment such as a powerful ventilator and sophisticated cardiac monitor, and medications not found in acute care ambulances, Toris explained. Inside, the ambulance resembles an emergency room bay.
"It is like taking the ICU to where the patient is," John McCarthy, D.O., medical director of LVHN MedEvac said.
Plus, the ambulances can move out in situations such as thick fog and other inclement weather conditions when a medical helicopter may be grounded.
Not to be outdone, however, the new critical care helicopter boasts it own advantages including two engines and a larger passenger area than many medical transports. Space is limited, however, and equipment is valued by necessity and weight. For example, equipment drawers are labeled by how much each drawer can hold in pounds, Toris explained.
A critical care nurse and a critical care paramedic fly with the pilot.
Painted black, the exteriors of the trucks and helicopter are detailed in reflective striping and diamond plating highly visible at night.
According to Brian Downs, director of media relations, Lehigh Valley Health Network, each ambulance costs about $400,000 fully equipped.
In addition to medical equipment, each ambulance carries a stair chair for bringing patients down flights of stairs, helmets and other speciality equipment for crew members to use when responding to emergencies such as fires.
The critical care ambulance and helicopter also can be called out to transport critical patients from one care facility to another.
Each of the new ambulance trucks also is a Wi-Fi hot spot.
The trucks were built by American Emergency Vehicles based in North Carolina. The helicopter is owned by air ambulance operator Air Methods based in Colorado and Lehigh Valley Health Networks's partner in MedEvac.