‘Critical minutes’: Upgraded EMS system in Wisconsin saves lives

Bolstered with equipment upgrades, Cambridge Area EMS now provides paramedic capability in the field

Minutes are preciousespecially for those who need immediate emergency care.

“No matter how fast we are, the first four to seven minutes after an emergency occurs are critical to saving lives,” says Bob Salov, director of Cambridge Area EMS near Cambridge, Wisconsin.

Cambridge’s community-run CAEMS support the main Cambridge EMS service by providing pre-hospital emergency care that covers an area of more than 70 square miles. A recent change in state legislation allows organizations like CAEMS to upgrade their staffing to the highest level of paramedic—pending their ability to upgrade their equipment and staff as such.

Salov describes this as a “radical” change to the level at which CAEMS can provide service to those in need.

“We actually had five paramedics on staff, but all of them were practicing as advanced EMTs, so we still relied on neighboring facilities to intercept,” says Salov. “The ability to have them on our staff has elevated our service drastically.”

Paramedics receive advanced training that makes them uniquely suited to acute situations requiring cardiac emergency care or use of advanced medications such as painkillers.

Although the change in rules is significant, CAEMS had to find its own way to outfit ambulances and purchase supplies that paramedics require within their scope of practice.

This year, a $7,500 Safe Community grant from Enbridge supported CAEMS with its equipment upgrade, as part of our commitment to improving the quality of life in communities near our operations and projects, including the Line 3 Replacement Project.

Such upgrades include supplies, safes and IT improvements to CAEMS ambulances.

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Salov says that the legislation changes have seen a wave of upgrades in EMS services across the state, but the grant puts CAEMS slightly ahead of the curve.

“To have paramedic capability in the field is the ultimate goal of most communities—the difficulty is the cost of it.”

CAEMS has also extended efforts beyond its prehospital care by enhancing its home health delivery. These situations see health care providers conducting medication checks or taking blood pressure in one’s home rather than the costly transport to a hospital.

When Salov isn’t running the operations at CAEMS, he can often be found educating communities on the importance of getting CPR training among other courses.

In fact, the reason he joined EMS as a volunteer over 30 years ago was due to his role as a father. Having five children, Salov says he felt the need to get training so he could respond in cases of emergency.

“I did a presentation on this recently to recognize first responders. I said we are all our brothers’ keepers—we should all get training so we can help others when help is on the way.”