South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

MFPD looks to enhance quality of service

Program designed to deliver highest-quality EMS service
Brian Hendricks
Brian Hendricks

Two initiatives underway in the Mehlville Fire Protection District are designed to vastly improve the quality of service offered to residents, according to Chief Brian Hendricks.

The district plans to hire six paramedics this year for the launch of its critical care paramedic program.

Critical care paramedics have the ability to perform advanced clinical patient assessments and provide invasive care beyond the standard scope of treatment to patients.

Besides implementing the critical care paramedic program, the Board of Directors voted unanimously last week to approve the purchase of a three-acre site on Baumgartner Road in Oakville that will be the location of a multipurpose training center for the district.

Both initiatives will greatly enhance the quality of service that the fire district already delivers to residents, the chief told the Call.

Planning for both the critical care paramedic program and the new training center has been underway for quite some time.

Hendricks first proposed the critical care paramedic program to the board in October, although planning for it goes back roughly 18 months. Likewise, constructing a training facility has been discussed for more than a decade, most recently in November.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously Nov. 30 to approve the critical care paramedic program, which Hendricks said is needed because “hospitals are releasing sick people to their homes a heck of a lot sooner. I remember when people used to be in the hospital three or four weeks. Now they’re in the hospital three or four days … The point is we’re seeing a lot of sicker people in the in-home environment.”

As a result, the district’s command staff brainstormed how to respond to the need for increased medical care.

“The critical care paramedic program is nothing new. It’s an additional certification. It’s an additional course where the student basically spends significant more time getting into things — pathophysiology, additional training in 12-lead cardiac, EKG interpretation, utilization of ultrasound equipment, utilization of a wide variety of equipment that the standard paramedic just doesn’t have an overall knowledge of,” Hendricks said.

The command staff consulted with Dr. Christopher Bosche, the district’s medical director, about establishing the program.

“We sat down with Dr. Bosche and we asked him, ‘What do you think about putting together a critical care paramedic program with that understanding that we are going to focus on a high level, a super level of training in just EMS for this core group of people?’ He embraced it. He said, ‘I love the idea. I think it’s going to be terrific,’” Hendricks recalled. “It’s going to give the ability to add equipment to the trucks, that these critical care paramedics are going to have a better understanding of IV pumps, external pulse generators … ventilator management, better assessment skills — being able to treat sicker people in an in-home environment …

“It’s all designed for a better outcome for the resident.”

The fire district’s 2017 budget includes $50,000 to $75,000 to purchase equipment for the program.

“I honestly believe that if we introduce this extra level of training with the implementation of the technology that we are going to purchase to support the program, I think you’re going to see a significant increase in the standard of care and I think you’re going to see better outcomes,” Hendricks said. “And at the end of the day, that’s why we’re here. It’s what we’re supposed to do, and that’s what we strive to do every day.”

The chief’s goal is to eventually have a critical care paramedic on every ambulance in the district.

“Through attrition, my goal is to have one critical care paramedic on every ambulance in the Mehlville Fire Protection District. So I see moving forward, we are going to still hire fire/medics, but I would really like to see this critical care paramedic program get up and running and I know now with board approval, it will be up and running in 2017,” he said.

On Saturday, the district tested 147 applicants for both critical care paramedic and fire/medic positions. Of those applicants, 68 were seeking the critical care paramedic posts, Hendricks said.

“These people are coming to the Mehlville Fire Protection District saying, ‘We understand, we just want to be on an ambulance,’ and that’s what we’re going to hire them to do,” he said. “We’re not going to bridge them over. They’re not going to go to the Fire Academy. They are going to be highly trained, focused individuals with the pure task of delivering the highest-quality EMS service to the taxpayers …”

A resolution adopted Jan. 24 authorizes board Secretary Bonnie Stegman “to act on behalf of the district and the Board of Directors to purchase” the 3-acre site at 4471 Baumgartner Road for the multipurpose training center. Closing was set Feb. 1.

“My intention is to build a training center that can be at the Mehlville Fire Protection District for 30 years,” Hendricks said. “I want a multipurpose training facility where we can do live burns. We’ll have a classroom, climate controlled, obviously. I’m also going to try to incorporate additional storage for apparatus …”

The cost was $213,000 for the property, which is owned by Canaan Baptist Church and currently houses The Refuge church.

The Refuge will remain at the site until Jan. 1, 2018, and demolition of the existing structure will begin early next year with the goal of breaking ground for the training center by April.

“So that will give us 2017 to do a needs assessment for the district, be able to get some designs started to be able to present to the board several options of what we would like to see in a training center,” he said.

The most important component of the training center will be the burn tower, which Hendricks said he and Assistant Chief Dan LaFata are researching.

“There’s so many different kinds with so many different footprints, so that’s what Chief LaFata and I are going to focus on for ’17 …,” he said. “It’s going to be a big project. It’s going to be good, and it’s something that south county needs. There isn’t a training facility in south county. So my intention is to allow the Fenton Fire Protection District, the Affton Fire Protection District, the Lemay Fire Protection District to come in and use this facility.

“I’m not asking for rent, I’m not asking for payment. I’m asking for, ‘Hey, if you break it, could you help buy it?’ … This is not just a Mehlville thing. This is a south county thing, and if we’re fortunate at the Mehlville Fire Protection District that our board is going to allow us to put this facility in place, I know because I know the character and integrity of my board, they’re going to welcome those other districts who want to use this. They’re going to welcome the ability to contribute to the training of firefighters and paramedics from all the surrounding districts …”

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