When you experience a medical emergency, first responders and ambulance crews rush to your side — and often they rush you to the hospital to see a doctor.
In a new partnership between the University of South Alabama (USA) and the city of Orange Beach, on some calls run by the city’s new ambulance service, a doctor will be rushed to you.
“If you have an emergency in Orange Beach, there is a likelihood that you’ll have a doctor at your front door,” Fire Chief Justin Pearce said. “There will be times when there will be a doctor responding on an ambulance that the city of Orange Beach owns driving to your front door and assisting in your care. How incredible is that?”
Pearce, city leaders and USA medical officials announced the partnership on June 4 in a joint news conference at the city’s Fire Station No. 1. Not only will it include resident doctors doing rotations on ambulances, it will also include Orange Beach fire personnel doing rotations at USA hospitals.
“The Orange Beach paramedics will also have access to rotate at USA Health University Hospital to learn and assist with complex injuries and medical conditions that aren’t common in Orange Beach,” Pearce said.
Pearce said when the city decided to start its own ambulance service in November, he began talking with his wife, Dr. Stephanie Pearce, an orthopedic surgery resident at USA, about expanding the direction of Orange Beach emergency services.
“After these discussions, she happened to run into Dr. Paul Henning who was recently hired by USA to lead its emergency medicine residency training program,” Pearce said. “We started discussing having some of his emergency medicine residents rotate on our ambulances.”
Dr. Edward Panacek, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at USA, said the residents in the hospital’s newest residency program will be gaining invaluable experience working on the ambulances.
“We see this as a real strength of our program,” Panacek said. “We’re hoping and we’re expecting that collaboration will be a two-way, win-win street where our residents are learning from the EMS agencies with hands-on experience pre-hospital, on the streets here.”
Conversely, Pearce said, the city’s crews will be gaining experience working with the resident doctors during emergency calls.
“Our personnel will be exposed to a higher level of clinical decision making,” Pearce said. “Even when these physicians aren’t riding with us, they’ll have a bigger picture of what’s happening at your emergency scene. But it goes further than just the care those in our city will receive. We will be giving future emergency medicine physicians first-hand experience in the field. This will have an impact far beyond Orange Beach and South Alabama.”
Panacek cited a recent emergency medicine report card that gave the state an “F” in emergency medical preparedness and listed it 49th in numbers of qualified emergency physicians.
“USA, in emergency medicine, is attempting to do something about that and improve that situation,” Panacek said. “We have just started a new emergency medicine residency program. We are looking to transform acute emergency medical care for our region through collaborations like this and the programs we are developing.”
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