Okla. EMS personnel recognized for being 'difference makers'

In 2016, EMSStat responded to more than 22,000 calls and more than 17,000 transports


By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript, Okla.

NORMAN, Okla. — Quick response time during a medical emergency can mean the difference between life and death, but it also makes a difference in health outcomes for survivors.

Norman Regional's EMSStat responders have some of the shortest scene time in the nation, said EMSStat Manager Eddie Sims, hitting a target of 15 minutes or less. Sims said that response time can make a difference in how much heart muscle a patient loses or how many brain cells are lost, as well as the difference between life and death.

For this, and for all that first responders do, Norman Regional Health System took time out Wednesday to say "thank you" by providing its annual, picnic-style lunch of hotdogs and hamburgers.

From old-timers like Sims, who's in his 40th career year, to emergency medical technicians right out of school, the recognition was appreciated.

"Who do I thank?" asked one young EMT before rushing back to work.

The thanks on Wednesday were meant for those responders, however. Asked why they chose emergency medical response as a career, three young men joked that it was for the low pay before getting serious.

"I didn't want to be told I couldn't help someone in a situation," said EMT Ben Franks.

Paramedic Hamid Daraby said he likes having specific rules to follow, yet still having autonomy within the job.

EMT Josh Ou said he took the job to make a positive impact.

"I like knowing what to do in emergencies and knowing I can make a difference in someone's life," he said.

During calendar year 2016, EMSStat responded to more than 22,000 calls, said NRHS COO John Manfredo. EMSStat Norman had 17,968 calls with 13,896 transports, while EMSStat Moore had 4,258 calls and 3,116 transports.

Residents in Norman and Moore don't fund EMSStat as a utility as is done in many cities. Rather, the Norman Regional Health System provides the service with funding coming from billing Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and patient copay.

"It's run as a department like the emergency room," said NRHS spokesperson Melissa Herron. "Patients are billed for services."

EMSStat started as a division of the Norman Police Department, but in 1995 it became a department within the municipal hospital system.

EMSStat has 115 total paramedic and EMT positions serving Norman and Moore. Of those, 34 are full-time positions serving Norman, while 15 are full-time in Moore. The rest are part-time positions.

"We know how blessed we are to have EMSStat," said Norman Mayor Lynne Miller.

Prior to adding Moore to the service area in July 2015, EMSStat provided ambulance service and emergency response to Norman and surrounding areas -- about 400 square miles.

Paramedic Matthew Myers is currently a crew chief at the Moore EMSStat location.

"We have lifesaving capability in our trucks," he said.

When Myers joined the EMSStat team 12 years ago, there were three ambulances on 24/7 duty in the Norman area.

"Now we have seven to nine," Myers said. Two of those are in Moore.

Moore provides space for the ambulance service, but it's also billed to insurance payers.

Several Norman firefighters from Station No. 7 attended the luncheon as well. Norman Fire Department has about 20 firefighters who are also paramedics, said Deputy Chief Mike Wilson.

Because fire stations are strategically located throughout town, firefighters are often first on the scene for medical calls.

"We address any of the life-threatening conditions, and our paramedics are able to do some of the skills that correspond with EMSStat," Wilson said. "When EMSStat arrives on scene, they assume patient care and transport the patient to the hospital."

Wilson said all of Norman's firefighters are EMTs -- certified Emergency Medical Technicians. Some of those are supported by the city to go on and get paramedic certifications.
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(c)2017 The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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