Ambulances serving Columbia County are more than just a ride to the hospital.
They’re also technologically advanced mobile medical treatment centers.
“A lot of folks that we go to still look at this as a ride,” Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service paramedic John Evans said. “They have no idea that they are actually being taken care of on the way to the hospital.”
Gold Cross provides five ambulances, staffed with a paramedic and emergency medical technician, to serve Columbia County 24 hours a day. A sixth is staffed and on call on weekdays.
Gold Cross replaced three ambulances with newer 2012 models in December and replaced two more with 2013 ambulances in February. The newest ambulances are stationed at Columbia County Fire Rescue stations on Furys Ferry and Old Louisville roads.
“We always strive to be the best,” Gold Cross CEO Vince Brogdon said. “If there’s something coming out and we think it’d be beneficial, we’ll go ahead and add it.”
The ambulances respond to 20-25 calls a day and answered more than 900 calls in January.
Gold Cross owner Bo Pounds is known for using the most up-to-date technology on the ambulances, Brodgon said. Each of the Ford F-250s, which cost about $250,000 when fully outfitted with supplies and equipment, includes new features, such as folding side mirrors and key-fob door locks to keep the ambulance locked when staff are on a scene treating patients.
“We’ve actually had somebody steal drugs, and we’ve actually had someone steal a cardiac monitor,” Brogdon said, explaining the need for the locking mechanism. “We recovered both. We have had thefts from ambulances while we’re actually at somebody’s house.”
All of the ambulances are custom built according to Gold Cross specifications. Though each has upgraded lights and sirens, the newest technology is inside.
A wireless network allows staff to send updated patient records from the ambulance and information such as EKG test results to an emergency room before the patient arrives.
At the home of a patient having a heart attack, staff can send the EKG directly to emergency room doctors. Response time is important during a heart attack because the more time that elapses before treatment, the more heart muscle dies, Brogdon said.
“By the time we get you loaded in the ambulance, the people at the hospital are looking at your EKG,” Brogdon said. “They’ve got your name, they know how old you are and they know what is going on before we even get en route to the hospital.”
Each ambulance is outfitted with a LUCAS 2 automatic CPR device, cardiac monitors, glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, bandages, intubation tubes, masks, chairs to help patients down stairs, hydraulic stretchers and other items.
“We pretty much do everything that you need in a medical emergency,” Brogdon said. “We can do it all.”
The ambulances are even equipped with forward, rear and cabin cameras and nets to keep staff from being tossed into the back of the cab during transport.
“We couldn’t be happier,” said Columbia County Emergency and Operations Division Director Pam Tucker, who oversees the contract with Gold Cross.
After adding an ambulance in the mid-2000s, Gold Cross hasn’t raised its cost to the county since the first contract in 2001, Tucker said.
“We’re fortunate,” she said. “When you get in one of these, you’re going to be in the best. They are saving lives every day.”