Emergency care requires networkWhen Gold Cross shows up on the scene of a medical emergency, it’s just a small piece of the network that provides emergency transport services in the region.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
When Gold Cross shows up on the scene of a medical emergency, it’s just a small piece of the network that provides emergency transport services in the region.
Matt Will of Gold Cross said there are multiple facets to operating an ambulance service – education, medical controls, quality assurance, communication and information technology, vehicle maintenance, specialized supplies – all contribute to the care patients receive.
“Medical care is changing on a regular basis; we’re constantly updating our guidelines, updating our supplies,” Will said. “… Our education department has to stay in tune with national and state standards, and make sure we’re always in compliance.”
That education begins where classroom training ends, before a paramedic ever treats a patient.
“You don’t just come out of paramedic school and start with Gold Cross and start taking care of patients,” Will said. “We have a comprehensive orientation program. Once people complete that, there’s a field training program that our team members are placed into. Now, even when they are working for us out there, there’s a scripted program by which they learn about the organization and guidelines.”
Even seasoned paramedics are required to continue their education to keep up with changes in medical care.
“We have a pretty robust education program for our team members when they come into the organization and on an ongoing basis to help them maintain their certifications,” Will said.
Behind the scenes
Mayor Dave Ross said there are a number of shortfalls in the proposal that are cause for concern and could affect the excess revenue the fire department anticipates.
In addition to administration, he said he has a hard time believing some of the numbers, such as a $15,000 expense for medical control.
Gold Cross utilizes a full-time physician to provide medical direction that guides paramedics work in the field as well as developing and reviewing medical guidelines. The medical director is also involved in training programs, quality assurance reviews and practice changes.
Ambulances are highly specialized vehicles and maintaining the vehicles isn’t something that could be handled by a typical dealership or mechanic. Will said. Gold Cross contracts with an outside vendor for the service. That maintenance, in the fire department’s proposal, is anticipated to cost about $6,330 annually.
While the proposal accounts for $721,700 in equipment costs, including ambulances and turnout gear for nine additional firefighters anticipated to be hired, it falls short where electronic recordkeeping is concerned. The proposal includes nothing for computer technology that is a backbone for Gold Cross’ operation.
Will said information technology allows Gold Cross to manage everything from providing patient information to medical facilities and for billing, and allows the company to meet its reporting requirements.
Minnesota and Wisconsin require data on every run Gold Cross makes. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services requires data about the ambulance service, the patient and the care they received.
With five ambulances manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week – three in Duluth, one in Superior and one in Hawthorne – Gold Cross’ service may appear to come up short against a proposal that would keep two ambulances manned around the clock in Superior.
A proposal by the Superior Fire Department would utilized two ambulances located at the headquarters on Tower Avenue and another in East End routinely. A third ambulance would be maintained in reserve in the event it’s needed.
While Gold Cross routinely mans only one ambulance in Superior, Will said more are available when needed.
“The vehicles move around based on the calls that come in,” Will said. “When there’s a lot going on in Superior, there’s an ambulance that shifts over here, and vice versa.”
Ambulances staged at the foot of the bridges between Duluth and Superior are common when a call goes out.
In the event of a catastrophic event, Will said Gold Cross can immediately draw from its staff of 60 in the region to operate seven additional ambulances in reserve throughout the region. The company also has mutual aid agreements with surrounding communities to draw on additional resources when needed.
Companywide, Gold Cross has 56 ambulances and more than 300 team members.
“If there’s an incident … long-term we could bring in team members from our operations in Rochester, Mankato, Fairmont, [Minn.], Will said. “The beauty of our system too is we are one system. Our equipment has the same supplies and equipment in them. Our team members are trained to the same standard.”