Emergency Care-Fire Service Challenge
The Editor’s Opinion Page
At the recent Seattle IAFC Conference, Dr. Eugene L. Nagel of the University of Miami School of Medicine declared that the greatest challenge to the emergency services is the emergency care given outside the hospital. Dr. Nagel made this statement to the assembly at the Metropolitan Workshop on the panel given over to “Operation Heartbeat.”
He followed his declaration with a question: What single agency or body of trained personnel can best provide this care—police, fire or private ambulance service?
The good doctor, who has been working closely with the Miami Fire Department for several years, was, of course, biased. He felt that the fire service was ideally suited for the job. And he said that the fire service as a whole is going to have t.o decide fairly soon whether or not as a group it wants to aim in this area—emergency care of the sick and injured.
“Operation Heartbeat” also brought out the fact that many persons die with hearts that are too good to die—all because of the deplorably inadequate ambulance service in many sections of our nation. Properly trained, properly equipped and properly supervised paramedical personnel could put an end to this appalling loss.
The fire departments of Miami and Seattle have been doing a fine job in this area. Recently a group of Los Angeles County and Los Angeles City fire fighters became the first paramedics in the nation allowed to administer to victims of heart attacks and other emergencies life-saving measures formerly performed only by physicians.
In our mind, this is as it should be. Traditionally, the citizens of this country call the fire department whenever they are in trouble—a child locked in a bathroom or one with his head stuck in a fence immediately comes to mind. These citizens have learned down through the years that the fire department provides instant response with trained personnel and adequate equipment for any reasonable emergency.
So why shouldn’t a citizen with a heart attack or one trapped in a crushed auto get the same prompt, skilled response that he gets when his house is on fire.
“Operation Heartbeat” calls for the involvement of the fire service in the training of fire fighters as paramedics for the development and operation of mobile intensive coronary care units. Our feeling is that intensive emergency care should not be limited to coronary care. But “Operation Heartbeat” is a wonderful beginning that could be expanded to include all emergency care. It should be supported by the entire fire service.
In the following pages you will find out what certain fire departments are doing in emergency care. Hopefully, more departments will be doing the same.