JANESVILLE — When emergency crews are called to trauma cases in Rock County, physicians sometimes respond now, too.
MD-1 is Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center's new emergency field vehicle that on-call physicians drive to the scene of emergencies to lend additional field support.
“We're not there to take over for the paramedics. We're not there to do their job,” said Dr. Jay MacNeal, EMS medical director and emergency physician. “We're there to assist them and to make sure that there's a quality EMS system that's in place for the county, and I think there is.”
Mercy officials said the Janesville program is unique among area cities of similar size—and larger.
The physicians are likely to respond for trauma cases, prolonged entrapments, incidents with multiple patients, cases when physicians happen to be nearby or incidents for which EMS crews feel having a doctor at the scene would be beneficial, he said.
“It certainly is another asset to have available to the citizens of Rock County,” said Gerry Luiting, Janesville deputy fire chief.
Mercy started responding to scenes Feb. 1, and MD-1 had responded to about 30 calls through last week, MacNeal said. He estimated half the calls were cardiac arrests, about half were vehicle accidents, and the rest were medical calls of other types.
“I was expecting far less, to be honest,” MacNeal said. “But it's good. People are starting to get the concept of the value of having a physician there.”
Ambulances sometimes are hauling patients to Janesville from 34 minutes away. Other times, weather conditions prohibit medical helicopters from flying. Sometimes, patients are trapped and cannot be immediately freed, MacNeal said.
MD-1 is an enhancement in patient care for some incidents, Luiting said. He compared MD-1 to a tool in a mechanic's toolbox.
“No one tool is good for every situation,” he said, “and like that, this isn't good for every situation. Certainly in times when you need a particular tool, this will be a huge asset.”
Physicians can insert chest tubes for patients with severe chest traumas, perform small-scale surgeries, administer antibiotics and other medications that paramedics typically don't carry and provide clinical expertise, MacNeal said.
The vehicle carries the Lucas Chest Compression System, a mechanical device that performs CPR at a consistent compression rate and proper depth. Other than MD-1, Edgerton is the only community in the county that has the system, MacNeal said.
The mechanical CPR system is more effective than human CPR and safer for paramedics because it eliminates the need for them to stand in an ambulance moving through traffic, Luiting said.
MacNeal or Dr. Richard Barney, associate medical director of the Mercy Regional EMS Training Center, staff the MD-1 while on call. Mercy is looking at hiring a third physician to work with the MD-1. The physicians drive the vehicle wherever they go—out to eat with their families or to the grocery store—while on call.
The MD-1 responds regardless of a patient's hospital choice, MacNeal said. Patients' destination wishes are honored, although MacNeal said he recommends patients experiencing trauma, stroke or an active heart attack, for example, go to Mercy.
Mercy does not bill for the MD-1 response, he said.
Mercy spent about $125,000 to buy and equip the vehicle, he said. Additional expenses include the physician staffing time.