EMS earns prestigious American Heart Association award for second year

Carla Slavey

Somerset-Pulaski EMS Chief Steven Eubank and Major Nancy Whitis were on hand Monday night to receive praise for the department from Somerset City Council. The EMS department was awarded the Mission: Lifeline EMS Performance Bronze-Plus Achievement Award.

For the second year in a row, Somerset-Pulaski EMS was recognized by the American Heart Association by receiving the Mission: Lifeline EMS Performance Bronze-Plus Achievement Award.

The award is given EMS departments that go beyond the basics of STEMI (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction) system care.

EMS Chief Steven Eubank and Major Nancy Whitis addressed Somerset City Council at its Monday night meeting to explain the work the entire department put into receiving this award.

Major Whitis told council, “Any chest pain patient 35 years or older, we have to get a 12-lead (heart monitor) on in 10 minutes.”

That sounds like a long time, but as Eubank explained, “We’re getting there, we’re getting histories, we’re getting patient package stuff, IVs started. All this stuff is happening, everything has to work really smooth.

“And our team, they do a great job on it,” he said. “We want to make sure we recognize them.”

Whitis said that along with getting the monitor onto the patient, EMS personnel must get aspirin to the patient and recognize the heart event taking place.

Finding a STEMI rhythm means the patient is likely having a heart attack, which means EMS must alert the nearest hospital – in this case Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital – and transport them so that the patient can receive a heart catheterization and stents by hospital personnel. All that has to take place within 90 minutes.

The “Plus” of Bronze-Plus refers to stroke recognition, said Major Whitis. In the case of a stroke patient, EMS must identify that the patient is having a stroke, then notify the hospital so that it can begin their stroke alert procedures and be prepared when the patient arrives.

While the American Heart Association was not able to send a representative this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, a statement came from Tim Henry, M.D., chair of the Mission: Lifeline Acute Coronary Syndrome Subcommittee.

“EMTs and paramedics play a vital part in the system of care for those who have heart attacks,” Henry said. “Since they often are the first medical point of contact, they can save precious minutes of treatment time by activating the emergency response system that alerts hospitals to an incoming heart attack patient. We applaud the Somerset-Pulaski County EMS team for achieving this award in following evidence-based guidelines in the treatment of people who have severe heart attacks.”

EMS were also praised by council and Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, who referred to Whitis’ statement that the department did not achieve the award in its first year attempting it.

“We want to say thank you to you all [for] your incredible hard work and dedication to this program,” Keck said. “It’s proof positive that it’s not easy to do. You haven’t won it every year, but we won it again.”

Later, he added, “In so many ways, you’re unsung heroes.”

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