Paramedics ride with fire crews — (The Press Enterprise)

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The Press Enterprise

11:17 PM PST on Saturday, December 24, 2005

By DAN LEE / The Press-Enterprise

Teams will administer advanced life support

MORENO VALLEY – The call came into Sunnymead Fire Station 2: a teenage girl had overdosed on antidepressant medication in her home and appeared to be comatose.

Engine Co. 2 arrived at the home within minutes, and a paramedic gave the girl Narcan, a medication to reverse the effects of the drugs.

Paramedics are a new phenomenon at Moreno Valley fire stations. Earlier this month, the Fire Department converted 18 positions to 16 firefighter-paramedics positions and two firefighter-engineers positions that will staff Moreno Valley’s six fire stations, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“That was one of the first calls we had,” Capt. Chris Kemp said of the overdose incident.

The Moreno Valley City Council authorized the addition of paramedic services when it approved the city’s $210 million, 2005-06 budget earlier this year. Councilman Bill Batey, a Riverside fire captain, said it was not good for firefighters to respond to an emergency and be unable to save lives because they didn’t have a paramedic.

“It greatly expanded their capability,” Batey said. “It’ll be real good for the city to have that extra step.”

Previously, firefighters could only offer basic life support: bandaging wounds, splinting broken bones, administering oxygen and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But paramedics can provide advanced life support to patients more quickly, such as administering medications through intravenous lines.

“Advanced life support is any invasive procedure, whether it’s breaking the skin, using an endotracheal tube or a defibrillator,” Paramedic Dan Treiman said during an interview at Station 2.

American Medical Response ambulances have paramedics, but Batey and other city officials were concerned, because the ambulances aren’t always able to get to an emergency as quickly as firefighters. AMR has only thee ambulance units in Moreno Valley, and they are often out on other calls, or driving out to the hospital, Battalion Chief Steve Curley said.

He said it was not unusual for it to take ambulances 20 minutes to arrive at the scene of an incident.

In contrast, Moreno Valley has six stations, and firefighters have set a goal of responding to 90 percent of their calls within five minutes, Curley said.

Paramedic candidates must first get training as emergency medical technicians. Then they must pass a pretest to get accepted to the paramedic program, which involves 10 months of training, including two months in a clinical setting and two months in the field.

The annual cost to upgrade the 18 positions to paramedics is $274,654 in salary and benefits and $30,000 in ongoing operating expenses, Curley said. An additional $238,000 was spent to purchase equipment to start the program, including cardiac monitors and defibrillators, he said.

The Fire Department averages about 30 medical-aid calls a day, but it isn’t clear how many of those require paramedic services, Curley said.

Since the program started, paramedics have answered calls ranging from an unconscious diabetic man whose blood-sugar levels were too low, to another man whose blood pressure dropped after an allergic reaction to bee stings, paramedic Greg Petersen said.

As the paramedics were speaking, they got an emergency call: a man was sick in the parking lot of the McDonald’s restaurant around the corner. Treiman, fellow firefighter-paramedic Jeff Nimisiriruengphol and a firefighter scrambled into their fire engine and roared off with lights flashing and sirens wailing to respond to the call.

It turned out that the stricken man was not suffering from any kind of gastronomical distress: rather, his pulse was racing at 208 beats a minute, far above the normal 60 to 100 beats, Treiman said later. The paramedics were able to treat the man and get his pulse down to 112 beats a minute before an ambulance transported him to a hospital, he said.

Batey said he hopes residents don’t have a crisis that requires emergency medical assistance.

“But if they do,” he said, “it’s nice to know they have paramedics on hand to help.”

Reach Dan Lee at (951) 567-2410 or dlee@pe.com

Online at: http://www.pe.com/localnews/morenovalley/stories/PE_News_Local_M_mmedic25.3941b05.html