Rusk County EMTs are asking EKGs be added to ambulance equipment.

The Rusk County Emergency Management Services committee heard a presentation on the need for electrocardiogram, EKG, machines to be outfitted into each of the county’s ambulances.

Emergency Medical Technician Mary Schneider told committee members that most of the surrounding area ambulance services have EKG machines on their ambulances. Giving EKG access to the EMTs would be a valuable tool when patients are experiencing chest pains. 

Having that information at the EMTs fingertips would allow them to transmit that information to the destination hospital giving them time ahead to prepare to appropriately treat the patients. Schneider said the EKG tool would make for a more fluid step from the care of the EMTs to doctors. It would also help the county transition to the next level of care when the time comes.

Currently, the county is able to provide an EMT-Basic level of care in each of the ambulances. The long term goal would be transition to offering a higher level of care, such as EMT-Advance and possibly later paramedic.

If approved, EKG machines would need to be outfitted on each of the county’s five ambulances. Emergency Management Director Tom Hall said that while the exact cost for the machines is not yet known, the county could be looking at about $160,000-$200,000 for the five machines.

The EMTs would need to be trained on how to use the EKG machines, Schneider said some brands are more user-friendly than others. From previous training, a couple of the current EMTs have used EKG machines, according to Schneider.

One hurdle with installing the EKG machines, according to Hall, is that at the EMT-Basic level, the EMTs could not legally allowed to interpret the data from the EKG machine. However, the data can be transmitted to the destination hospital, reviewed by a doctor who would then give guidance to the EMTs on how to treat the patient until delivered to the hospital.

One other hurdle is that at the EMT-Basic level, certain heart medications could not be administered. As a long term goal, when the county reaches the level of paramedic care, a paramedic could legally be allowed to administer those kinds of medications.

“We can’t provide more medicine or care, but the hospital can better prepare, knowing what is happening with the patient,” said Hall. 

Acquiring the EKGs and training EMTs now, would be a step forward toward growing the county’s ambulance care.

County board supervisor Phil Schneider called the opportunity to add EKGs to the county ambulances a building step. The EKG would “give the patient such an advantage,” said Schneider who has been an EMT in Rusk County for 40 years.

Emergency Medical Technician Amanda Nicholson said she hopes the county will consider investing into quality EKGs to the ambulances to allow the EMTs to be more helpful. “These are sick people and we’re asking to treat them appropriately,” said Nicholson.

Also being considered for adding to the ambulances in the future are continuous positive airway pressure machines, CPAP, and updating automated external defibrillators, AED.

Rusk County Medical Examiner Jim Rassbach said the mortuary, aluminum cot currently being used needs to be replaced. The current cot can hold up to 400 pounds; however, there is a growing need to have a cot capable of holding up to 1000 pounds. The antiquated aluminum cot has collapsed on several occasions, according to Rassbach. 

There is currently a shortage of mortuary cots and it could take eight to 12 months to receive a new one. Replacement mortuary cots are $3,000 to $4,000 and a replacement was not budgeted for, however Schneider and other committee members requested to send the request to the property committee.

Rassbach also requested that the deputy medical examiners and chief medical examiners receive a 50 percent raise in their stipend to a corresponding increase in time requirements of the position. He said the examiners bring a lot of medical knowledge and professionalism to the position and are being required to invest more time in research, finding family members, documentation and spending more time with family members. 

All of the medical examiner positions are part time, without benefits. The suggested increase would result in a $12,000 to $13,000 per year total between all of the examiners. According to Rassbach, many other counties reimburse medical examiners at a higher rate. For example, Wausau offers a starting salary of more than $26 per hour, education reimbursement and full benefits for the same position.

During the March county board meeting, those in attendance heard a presentation for a jail study and a master plan proposal for all county properties. At the EMS meeting Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Wallace requested both studies to move to the property committee.

The jail study would take an in depth look at the existing state of Rusk County Jail and examine where the needs are for updates and improvements. Improvements in operations, staffing needs, inmate classifications and location of the Rusk County Dispatch would be examined. The current jail was built in the 1980s and needs measures to update it.

A master plan would cost the county about $80,000 to $100,000, according to Wallace, and would examine the existing state of the properties owned by the county. Rusk County Coordinator Andy Albarado said the master plan would examine the facilities and give the county scope on improvements. Albarado added that the Rusk County Government Center and Rusk County Highway Shop would be the two buildings that county supervisors would most likely wrestle with when considering the priority for improvements. 

A study without any follow through on making the improvements would be a waist of money, said Albarado.

Not approving a plan would require the county to budget more toward maintenance costs, according to Albarado, as there are needed maintenance and updates that are starting to surface in each of the county’s buildings.

Committee members approved sending both of the studies to the property committee for further consideration.

 The next Emergency Management Services meeting will be held at 8 a.m., Wednesday, May 12.

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