At the Sept. 8 Richland budget workshop, Richland Fire Chief Tom Huntington outlined how the Richland Fire and Emergency Services Department works with the community to deliver patients to Kadlec’s Level 1 cardiac unit with more than just a heartbeat.

Huntington also said that his department had not asked for new funding increases except to accommodate growth.  A fire station planned for the corner of Battelle Boulevard and Port of Benton Boulevard will accommodate new development in northeast Richland.

The department has improved what has sometimes been described as the “scoop and run” method for treating cardiac and trauma victims. While medics still rush to deliver patients to hospitals, they use the latest equipment and training to increase survival.

The department, Huntington said, starts by training people to do heart compressions until medics arrive. Participants learn to first call 911 and immediately begin quick, vigorous compressions. The puffs from the old Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) method have been eliminated.

In a telephone interview with the Observer, Huntington provided more details. “With our new community approach and technology, we can maintain a heartbeat that is consistent enough to maintain blood flow to the body and set the hospital up for success,” he said.

Richland’s five ambulances now have robots that provide heart compressions and field ventilators to help patients breathe. That frees up the medics to follow the monitors and communicate with doctors at the hospital emergency room.

According to Huntington, Richland leads the area in adopting the new methods. “We’re on the front edge,” he said. 

Lt. Mike Van Beek, who keeps some of the statistics for the department, told the Observer that last year medics saved 14 lives and improved their outcome from the previous year.

Huntington explained that medics have two years of training that includes classes, ambulance calls with more experienced medics and monthly meetings with Dr. Kevin Hodges medical program director for Benton-Franklin counties.

The department has about 38 medics for the four fire stations.  Usually each station has a medic 24-hours a day.