HEAR Keeps Hospitals in Touch With Ambulances
The ambulance service of the Exeter, N.H., Fire Department is a link in the new emergency radio network that ties New Hampshire hospitals to ambulance and other public safety services. The service, Motorola’s hospital emergency administrative radio (HEAR), is designed for both daily emergency work and civil disasters.
This system has been put to full use in an $18,000 ambulance recently received by the Exeter Fire Department. Half the cost was paid by the department and the other half by the federal government through the Highway Safety Act.
In discussing HEAR, Leslie A. Smith, executive director of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, said, “We hope that in the immediate future, we will have a program that is fully statewide.”
The system’s three base stations, which serve 10 general hospitals, are at Hanover, nearly half way up the western border of the state, at Manchester in the southeast and at New London, two-fifths of the way from Hanover on a direct line to Manchester.
One of the HEAR hospitals is the 100-bed Exeter Hospital, which is near the summer recreation centers of Rye and Hampton. This is the hospital that the Exeter Fire Department ambulance serves.
The new system involved installing one additional frequency on fire, police and volunteer ambulance radios, allowing communication with a hospital as well as their own service. The network also provided the capability to hook into civil defense facilities, administrative vehicles, a blood bank and other necessary locations.
Chief Vincent Toland of the Exeter Fire Department explained, “We can now notify the hospital that we are bringing in a serious accident case, tell them the circumstances of the accident, our estimate of the victim’s injuries and that sort of thing. This gives them ample time to get ready in the emergency room.
Within seconds after receiving an accident call, the ambulance and two firemen are on the way.
“If it is a serious accident,” said Toland, “we can call in the backup ambulance. Then the firemen can start removing the victims, placing the more seriously injured in their own ambulance for immediate delivery to the hospital and letting those less severely hurt wait for the backup ambulance.
“Within 6 to 10 minutes, we usually have the first patients in the hospital. En route, the firemen radio essential information to personnel in the emergency room.”
Radio message to nurse
Richard Warner, Exeter Hospital administrator, said it is preferable to have the emergency room nurse speak directly to the ambulance driver. If the nurse is busy, the switchboard operator questions the driver to obtain basic information. The conversation is also heard on the emergency room radio, enabling the nurse to evaluate the incoming patient’s condition even though she doesn’t speak directly to the ambulance driver.
“Through our cardio-pulmonary resuscitation teams, we have established a listing of the information the emergency room needs,” Warner said. “The driver tells us whether the patient has stopped breathing, whether he has a pulse rate, if resuscitation or external cardiac massage is being applied, the extent of bleeding, etc.”
At Exeter, personnel are experimenting with the triage concept, a plan for sending medical teams—physician, nurse and staff aid—to a stricken area to evaluate the situation and tell the base station by walkie-talkie how many more personnel are needed. The triage team can also advise hospitals how many patients to expect and how much ambulance service is needed.
In commenting on the HEAR system, Warner said, “Every disaster that comes along gives us evidence that the main problem is communications to the outside. We feel that radio is going to be our only means of dependable communications.”