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Meritus foundation funds EKG transmitters for ambulances

March 31, 2011
  • Meritus Healthcare Foundation board member Dave Barnhart, center, presents a check to Mertius Emergency Department Director Dr. Stephen Kotch and other hospital and EMS officials. The foundation has awarded local ambulance companies about $51,000 in grant funding to install equipment to transmit EKG readings from ambulances.
Submitted photo

HAGERSTOWN — Meritus Medical Center cardiac patients who are having life-threatening heart attacks have a new life-saving tool in all the local ambulances that transport them: field EKG transmissions.

The Meritus Healthcare Foundation has awarded local ambulance companies about $51,000 in grant funding to install modems and software on all ambulances that bring heart patients to the Hagerstown-area hospital, Meritus spokeswoman Linda Norris-Waldt said.

The foundation’s initiative began two years ago at the Crystal Ball with the help of numerous doctors, according to a Meritus Health news release.

Now Emergency Medical Services personnel can take electrocardiogram readings en route and send them wirelessly to doctors waiting at the Emergency Department.

 “This is a beautiful thing,” Brett Kane, clinical manager of the Cardiac Catherization Lab at Meritus, said in the release. “Our goal was to have every ambulance in our system equipped with an EKG capability, and now we are there.”

The hospital can also receive EKG transmissions from Frederick County, Md. and Franklin County, Pa. using the system, said Joan Fortney, administrative director of emergency services for Meritus.

Dr. Stephen Kotch, chairman of the Emergency Department, who was present at a ceremony celebrating the acquisition of the final EKG units, said the reduction in time to identify cardiac patients is critical when minutes count.

“This will give us early notice that will really help us lower door-to-balloon times,” he said.

The “door-to-balloon” time is the period between when a cardiac patient enters the emergency room until the blocked arteries are reopened, the release said. It is a significant factor in patient success rates.

Having the early verification that a stent is needed also allows medical teams to bypass the emergency room to bring patients directly to the Cardiac Lab, saving precious time, the release said.

The new equipment will put Meritus Medical Center well within the 90 minutes recommended by the American Heart Association for stents to be prepared and completed for certain patients, the release said.

In addition, emergency and cardiac experts at Meritus believe it will prepare the hospital to reach an anticipated 60-minute benchmark that the American Heart Association is poised to recommend, the release said.

“This is a life-saving improvement for cardiac patients,” said Laurie Sexton, interim director for the Meritus Healthcare Foundation.

Meritus Healthcare Foundation is a private, not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization whose purpose is to raise support for the hospital programs and services, scientific research, equipment, technology, medical training and community education provided through Meritus Health and its affiliates.

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