Island to do its own med info link
The Dukes County Sheriff's department is ready to implement its own system for direct communication between Martha's Vineyard Hospital emergency room doctors and paramedics on local ambulance runs.
Currently, the Barnstable County Sheriff's office operates the Centralized Medical Emergency Dispatch (CMED) for all Cape and Island hospitals. As the costs increase and the state budget shrinks, Barnstable County wants funds from hospitals and local governments to support the communication system.
Cape Cod Hospital has agreed to contribute $50,000 to keep the CMED system up and running through October, and the Barnstable County commission will contribute $50,000 to continue operation through January, according to Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings.
Martha's Vineyard Hospital executives have been part of the discussion on funding CMED, but do not expect to contribute. "They wanted the Martha's Vineyard Hospital to kick in," hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh said. "I've got enough things to pay for." The Martha's Vineyard Hospital accounts for a small percentage of t0he total communications handled by Barnstable County.
Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack said he anticipated funding issues, and took steps over the past several years to upgrade equipment so that his department can provide the service through the local communications center. "I have in place all of the radio equipment and telephone lines necessary to do that," he said. "We're probably not going to be doing it this summer. It's probably something we shoot for in the fall."
Sheriff McCormack said the only issue remaining before switching to a completely local communications system is training. "There's a learning curve," Sheriff McCormack said. "The training is not a long process, it's a matter of developing a policy or a procedure."
The CMED system provides an important link between doctors and first responders. A paramedic can take direction from emergency room doctors to provide certain medications or life-saving procedures, before an injured patient arrives at the hospital. The Barnstable County CMED system began in 1973, at a time when there were relatively few direct communications between hospital and ambulance.
"Now were' up to 42,000 per year," Sheriff Cummings said. "One dispatch position in our community does just CMED. With the fiscal situation that the state has been in we started looking at ways we could save money or generate money."
Sheriff McCormack believes providing the CMED communications technology locally will make the system better. "The actual transmissions will be clearer," Sheriff McCormack said. "I'm told by the EMS that the transmissions sometimes get garbled. By keeping it local the transmission would be improved."
Paramedics and doctors on the Island should not experience any change in how they use the system, but it will mean a change in the way communication center dispatchers handle the calls.
"Our dispatchers have to understand their obligations to a CMED patch," Mr. McCormack said. "They have to be dedicated to that patch until the end of the call, they can't take any other calls. The greater impact would be on the staffing. When a call comes through they have to be totally dedicated to that call."
The communication link between hospital and ambulance is the only part of the technical process provided by Barnstable County, and it is separate from the dispatching function. All Island ambulances are already dispatched through Dukes County.