|Fort Thomas Fire Department personnel demonstrated the new LUCAS Chest Compression System at a recent city council meeting.|
By Robin Gee, city council beat editor
Emergency response personnel are, of course, among the most essential workers. Keeping them safe, as well as protecting those in their care, remains a top priority for communities across the country, large and small.
The Fort Thomas Fire Department has received vital new equipment that will protect paramedics and emergency responders and their patients during the COVID pandemic and beyond.
The department received 18 reusable respirators and a LUCAS mechanical CPR device, funded with money through the CARES Act.
Supply challenges presented early in the pandemic
At the start of the pandemic, procuring enough of the right protective equipment was a challenge.
"In January, I was at the first meeting of the EMS in the region, and at that time we couldn’t source enough N95 respirators," explained Fort Thomas Fire Captain Tammy Webster.
She explained the department did receive some supplies from the national stockpile through the Office of Emergency Management, but as the pandemic raged and supplies dwindled, departments were asked to try to source masks and other personal protective equipment on their own.
"That was late spring, early summer and at that time they thought the cases would start to go down, but they actually increased. We needed a long-term solution," she said.
The department normally carries a small supply of N100 respirators for use in case emergency responders encounter someone with tuberculosis, but not nearly enough for the ongoing pandemic.
The new respirators, one for each emergency responder, are less bulky than other equipment, and last eight hours before a new canister must be attached. After the pandemic, the devices can be used with different types of cartridges so they can be used for other purposes such as protecting against particulates during a structure fire, Webster said.
Mechanical CPR with the LUCAS machine
The department also received one LUCAS Chest Compression System. This device replaces manual CPR. It not only frees up the emergency personnel to do other things for the patient, it provides safety and consistency of care.
In manual CPR, the person performing that duty can get fatigued or may need to attend to other issues at the same time.
The American Heart Association issues guidance on resuscitation. In an effort to improve outcomes, the organization studied the issue and found that consistent, high quality CPR was key, said Webster.
“In a hospital setting, it is easier. People are already in beds...There is a team of people. It is well-lit. There is no danger from carrying people up and down stairs. We have who we have on hand, not a whole bench to pull from,” she explained.
An added benefit, she said, is that driving down the road in the back of an ambulance, holding onto a bar and trying to give CPR is not a safe situation for the caregiver or the patient. With the LUCAS, all can be secured safely during the ride.
The device also records the entire event, she said. At times it needs to be paused so the EMS caregiver can check heart rhythms. The unit makes a recording of that and everything that happens and provides that information to be included in the patient care report.
The equipment does not come cheap, however. At $12,000 to $14,000 (even with a special discount by the manufacturer Stryker), it is an expensive piece of technology. Yet, the safety and consistency it provides protects vital personnel and may indeed save lives.
For more on the LUCAS Chest Compression System check out information on the Stryker website.