New ambulance, gear benefit Curry patients

By Charles Kocher, Pilot staff writer January 30, 2010 04:00 am

Dan Brattain and Joe Gregario display life-saving equipment Cal-Ore Life Flight has purchased. The Pilot/Charles Kocher
Two new ambulances, a mass casualty incident vehicle, and a wide array of new equipment have been deployed at Cal-Ore Life Flight.

President Dan Brattain and General Manager Joe Gregario estimate the total capital expenditures on vehicles and new equipment in the past year at $475,000.

The Cal-Ore crew members – a total of 75 in both ground and air operations – were brought in on the decisions about equipment, Gregario said.

“They’re pretty impressed,” he said. “This is all state-of-the-art equipment that makes their job a lot easier.”

It’s the two brand-new ambulances that will attract the most public attention. Once is a 2010 GMC, while the other is a higher profile 2010 Freightliner Sprinter.

“Without the equipment, this ambulance is about $80,000,” Gregario said as he showed off the headroom to stand up in the Sprinter. “By the time you  outfit it, there’s another $100,000 worth of medical equipment.”

The two new ambulances are among eight operated by Cal-Ore. One current ambulance has been donated to Curry County Search and Rescue.

The third vehicle new to the company fleet is a rescue and command vehicle, equipped to treat up to 300 people in a severe emergency. Brattain said it was acquired from Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue near Portland.

The other large purchase is an automated system for providing chest compressions on a patient who needs CPR – cardio pulmonary resuscitation. The $15,000 unit involves a strap around the chest of a patient that automatically squeezes the chest 30 times a minute.

“It’s much more effective and consistent than a person,” explained Gregario, especially on a 30-minute ambulance ride.

Working with both Brookings and Harbor fire departments, Cal-Ore decided to stage the unit at the Harbor Rural Fire Department because most of the calls needing CPR come from Harbor.

In addition to the three vehicles, Cal-Ore has added and upgraded some of the high-tech medical equipment that goes on board each of the ambulances, including:

•Special pediatric treatment bags, which consolidate equipment and guide treatment for children of all ages.  Gregario said the bags alone were $1,000 each.

•Special monitors to check the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in a patient, crucial for anyone with breathing difficulty.

•New, instant digital thermometers.

•Easy-to-use introasseous infusion systems (EZ-IO) for getting fluids into a patient when ordinary intravenous lines cannot be inserted.

•Toughbook laptop computers with special programs for taking all the charting and billing records of an ambulance call paperless.

•Zoll cardiac monitors with auto-external defibrillators that can transmit 12-lead cardiac monitoring directly to hospitals and heart specialists, and generate a permanent record for the patient’s chart.

“They can diagnose a heart attack and we can start treatment right at the scene,” said Gregario.

“It’s a huge time saving,” explains Brattain. If a patient needs to go to heart specialists immediately, the early diagnosis can cut 90 minutes out of the normal process to transport and stabilize a them.

Reports of cardiac trouble amount to 55 percent of the call volume for Cal-Ore, a total of about 3,000 ground ambulance calls a year.

In addition to the ground ambulance service in Brookings and Gold Beach, Cal-Ore has a fleet of six, fixed-wing aircraft serving both Curry and Del Norte counties, and a helicopter for transporting crew members and equipment.