“Really we’ve been rebuilding the service since Katrina. ... It’s really a testament to what they can do.” Dr. Jeffrey elder, EMS director
New Orleans — New Orleans officials are celebrating the city’s designation as the national paid EMS Service of the Year, a final feather in the cap of a group that has been completely rebuilt in the seven years since Hurricane Katrina.
EMS Director Dr. Jeffrey Elder and Mayor Mitch Landrieu will accept the official award today at the EMS World Expo currently being held at the Ernest J. Morial Convention Center. The award is given to the EMS service that best combines quality patient care and advancements in technology, according to a release from Landrieu’s office.
Elder said the award is a source of pride for the department, which lost of all of its ambulances and much of its equipment in Katrina. Not only is it a validation of the hard work and dedication of employees, but it also acknowledges the fact that New Orleans paramedics and emergency medical technicians are bringing innovative care to the region, he said.
“Really we’ve been rebuilding the service since Katrina. … It’s really a testament to what they can do,” Elder said. “As the director I’m extremely proud of the people working for me.”
Landrieu also praised the agency in a released statement.
“I always knew that New Orleans had a top-notch EMS department, and now the country knows we have the best in the nation,” he said.
Elder said that since the city took over administrative control of the EMS department in 2004, the focus has been on keeping abreast of the latest trends in the medical world and getting “cutting-edge” treatment to local patients.
For example, New Orleans was one of the first departments in the region to resume the use of tourniquets in ambulances after studying their effectiveness in treating soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, Elder said. The devices had received a bad reputation for causing limb loss, but Elder said after careful study it was clear their positive attributes outweighed the negative in certain situations.
“We know they can save lives, so we put them back on the truck,” said Elder, who pointed to the use of mechanical CPR devices as another key innovation.
In 2009, the agency pushed for the use of therapeutic hypothermia in treating cardiac arrest patients, Elder said. That procedure involves quickly reducing patients’ body temperatures to allow them a better chance of surviving cardiac arrest and regaining full mental functions. Once that change happened on ambulances, it was adopted by many of the hospitals in the city, Elder said.
New Orleans has tried to forge alliances with other departments in the region to create a network of standardized care, Elder said. New Orleans, Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish have all agreed to carry the same basic medication on ambulances and use the same treatment guidelines with patients. That sort of uniformity makes it easier to provide care across boundary lines when necessary, he said.
“It keeps us all kind of together in what we’re doing,” Elder said. “We can all talk the same language and know what we’re doing.”
New Orleans’ 150 paramedics and EMTs will handle about 55,000 calls for service in 2012, Elder said. Landrieu has proposed a budget of $11.8 million for the department in 2013.