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S.C. city hires new EMT director with hands-on approach

“The only way I can lead is to be deeply involved in what we are doing,” he said; he hopes to run calls as frequently as possible

By Don Worthington
The Herald 

ROCK HILL, S.C. — From 1972 to 1979 the exploits of paramedics and firefighters of Station 51 of the Los Angeles County Fire Department were popular entertainment in living rooms across America. Paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto would respond to all sorts of disasters, helping injured people, often inserting an IV of Ringers lactate or D5W – sugar in distilled water – as they stabilized the patients and then transported them to Rampart Hospital.

Among those watching the “Emergency!” television show was Michael Wallace of Paducah, Ky. Wallace, 46, is the new emergency medical services director for Piedmont Medical Center.

Much has changed in emergency medicine since the fictional “Emergency!” captured the interest of Wallace and others. When Wallace, or one of his PMC emergency medical technicians, arrives at a caller’s home or accident site, don’t expect him or her to immediately put a patient into an ambulance and dash to the emergency room.

Speed is still important, but Wallace said the time EMTs and paramedics spend evaluating a patient and beginning crucial, critical care is more medically effective. At the same time, the team on the ambulance is electronically transmitting a patient’s vital statistics, and informing a hospital’s emergency room of what to expect when the ambulance arrives.

It’s all about using the best evidence-based practices, giving quality care and also being efficient, Wallace said.

Wallace replaces Steve Cotter, who resigned in January after helping implement a new emergency dispatch protocol for the county. The system ended the practice of PMC ambulances and those from volunteer rescue squads in York County racing to the same calls.

While Wallace has been on the job for only two weeks, he understands the importance of relationships. He brings more than 27 years of experience to Piedmont. He holds a degree in emergency health services and EMS management from George Washington University, has worked his way up from emergency medical technician, and is even the founder of the nonprofit RightDose Foundation, a group dedicated to helping emergency medical care providers avoid medication errors.

“I’m comfortable with working with volunteer fire departments and rescue squads,” Wallace said. “From day 1, I want to have strong relationships, want to work together. That’s what I am used to.”

Wallace wasn’t looking for a new job when a friend told him about the PMC opening. He considered it, however, when he looked into the similarities between his employer at the time, Williams Medical Center EMS in Franklin, Tenn., outside of Nashville, and PMC.

Both are growth areas and, in both cases, the ambulance service is run by the hospital. Wallace said that arrangement results in everyone being health-care centered and gives the ambulance crews a direct connection with the hospital and its resources.

Wallace has spent most of his first days on the job listening. He said he had been impressed with the professionalism of his employees and the commitment PMC has made to emergency medical services.

He’s also been clear with his new employees that he won’t manage EMS from a desk. “The only way I can lead is to be deeply involved in what we are doing,” he said.

He hopes to run calls as frequently as possible. Like all medical professionals, he is ready to offer service whenever or wherever it’s needed – and he already has served his first patient at PMC.

Wallace was at the recent Strawberry Festival at Fort Mill as part of the PMC team. He was there primarily to learn more about the community he will serve. But when a man approached him and said he was having chest pains, Wallace helped him to an ambulance and immediately went to work.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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