Paramedics now serving town of Beloit residents

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Gina Duwe
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

TOWN OF BELOIT--Town of Beloit residents now are receiving a higher level of care when they call 911 for an ambulance, the fire chief said.

The Town of Beloit Fire Department this month started staffing its ambulances with at least one paramedic, an upgrade from advanced EMTs, Fire Chief Gene Wright said.

Eight members of the department now are paramedics, and six more are in training, Wright said.

“The biggest thing is it's going to allow the residents of the town a higher level of care quicker,” Wright said.

Instead of waiting five to 20 minutes for a paramedic to respond from another agency, patients will have that level of care as soon as the first ambulance arrives, he said. The town is a mix of urban and rural, and in some parts transport time can be up to 30 minutes, Wright said.

In the past, EMTs would assess the patient, and if a paramedic was needed, one was called through mutual aid at another department, a process that can take minutes in extra travel time.

Now, one paramedic will be on board the first ambulance to respond. If the paramedic is not needed at the scene, he will return to the department for the next call.

The upgrade is unique for departments of this size, Wright said. When the advanced EMTs in training are certified, about one-third of the department's 43 members will be paramedics.

Paramedics must go through six months of full-time training and pass a national test to be eligible for a state license. The town also has an internal certification, Wright said.

Paramedics are able to administer more medications, intubate patients and paralyze patients when needed to prevent further injury, Wright said. Basic EMTs can't start IV fluids, but advanced EMTs can, as well as give medications for overdoses.

Ambulances already were pretty well equipped for the staffing change, and the department recently bought a LUCAS Chest Compression System, an automated CPR device.

Paramedics receive incentive pay for the higher level of service, Wright said, but because he recently took over as chief, he said, he did not know how much of a difference it has on the budget.

Wright said his department will adjust to the changes this month and then be able to offer paramedic mutual aid to surrounding agencies.

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