MUNSTER | A new partnership between a local hospital system and ambulance company focuses on transporting and caring for critically ill patients in the region.
Community Hospital and Prompt Ambulance Service formed the Adult and Neonatal Critical Care Transport team. Based out of Community Hospital in Munster, the team transports patients to and from other facilities for critical care.
The team "went live" in January, according to Joe Merry, director of EMS operations at Prompt.
Prompt has a dedicated ambulance for the transfers. It is equipped with specialty gear to monitor and support a range of patients, from neonatal to neurological, respiratory, cardiac and trauma.
"Part of the premise is we can get a patient en route to an alternate location faster," Merry said.
The ambulance is staffed by team members based on patient needs. The team includes a respiratory therapist, physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and nurse trained in specialty care medicine.
Having its own team cuts down on the delay associated with calling an ambulance and waiting for transport, said Dr. Alan Kumar, medical director of the emergency department at Community Hospital.
"Now we have a crew here – trained, skilled," Kumar said.
The team handles scheduled transports and emergencies.
A big focus is on the smallest patients.
The team is trained to transport neonatal patients, some of whom need surgery at outside hospitals, said Ronda McKay, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services.
Community Hospital, with its expanded neonatal intensive care unit staffed 24/7 with University of Chicago Medicine neonatologists and other neonatal specialists, accepts some of the most ill babies from the area.
To prepare for the team formation, staff from Community rode along with Prompt to get a feel for mobile care, and Prompt employees received specialty training, such as neo-resuscitation, said Carla Meyer, director of patient care services.
"Prompt really showed an interest in doing a partnership with us," said Marie Forszt, director of marketing and community relations for Community Hospital.
Eight full-time workers and eight alternates from Prompt were tapped to be part of the team. They work in 12-hour rotating shifts, Merry said.
They start and end their day at Community. Between transports, they help treat hospital patients.
"It gives them more clinical time," Merry said.
The team's initial goal was to have at least two transports a day. The second week of February, they did about 30, Kumar said.
"Our hope is this will expand greatly," Merry said. "We're taking it in steps."