Mercy to align South Barry County District ambulances

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Equipment, decals, radio system, black boxes to be added

One-by-one, the South Barry County District's ambulance fleet of six units are receiving updates to align them with Mercy standards and protocols, and make them ready for service to Barry County citizens.

Mercy is in the process of adding equipment, Mercy decals, a radio system and black boxes to the ambulance units. The changes are being made following the district's contract switch from Cox to Mercy, which took effect March 9.

The district also purchased one new ambulance, a Demers brand, for $133,000.

"Cox is the one that actually ordered [the new ambulance]," said Ken Cieslinski, chairman for the district. "It is about ready to go into service."

Cieslinski said the district frequently rotates its ambulances, and it was time for a new vehicle in the fleet.

"The vast majority has well over a quarter of a million miles on them," he said. "So, it was overdue. We get good life out of those units."

As of Dec. 31, 2015, each the units, from most-driven to least-driven had accumulated 299,000 miles, 288,000 miles, 273,000 miles, 231,000 miles, 144,000 miles and 117,000 miles.

Cieslinski said the district should be able to get new units about every three to four years.

"Some of these are older than that, and again, that's because we didn't have funding," he said.

The Cox-to-Mercy contract switch will help, Cieslinski said.

"It's definitely going to help improve the past-due equipment that was due for the citizens -- bar none," he said. "There will be heart monitors, IV equipment and more. There's quite a bit. We buy the equipment, meaning what goes in the ambulances, and it is all owned by the citizens of the district."

The Demers-brand ambulance is a standard unit, Cieslinski said.

"Everything that was in the fleet before, until 2013, was an Ford F series," he said.

The black boxes will be a new addition, as Mercy requires they be placed in all of its units. The box is a computer system on the ambulances that track speed, braking and lateral forces.

"Cox did not use those," he said. "The board thought was a plus. On Mercy units, they are standard."

The turn-around time to have units aligned with Mercy standards won't take long.

"We will have all units back in service by the end of next week," Cieslinski said.

In the meantime, Mercy is providing temporary units.

"The transition has been nothing short of flawless," he said. "We are very pleased. They've done a lot of work on the front end, and it shows."

Along with the updates to the ambulance units, since the contract took effect, the board and 911 services have already noted improvements in communication.

"Communication with 911 and EMS services is better than we ever had since contracting with Mercy," Cieslinski said. "And, it's due to Mercy's openness to work with our 911 services."

Cieslinski received a note from Mike Phillips, Barry County emergency services director, stating how well-structured and professional Mercy is as an organization, and from an operations, communications and management standpoint.

Phillips said he was impressed with how quickly Mercy brought communications up in Barry County, and how they added a radio system and worked out the details associated with it such as call processes and work flows.

"I am happy to say, they have delivered on every communication point and our working relationship is off to a great start," he said in the note.

He also cited training calls where Mercy floated ambulances from other districts to help with coverage in Barry County.

The district normally provides equipment for the ambulances, but Mercy will be helping with expenses initially.

"Some of the equipment will be newer," he said. "They're fronting a lot of that expense because the district does not have that money."

"We're settling in nicely," said Bob Patterson, Mercy EMS director, who has been with Mercy for 27 years, including 17 as its EMS director. "We have invested in capital equipment and are working with the board to bring equipment up to our clinical standards. The district owns the transport infusion pumps (IV pumps), and the transport ventilators, the district didn't own those, so we are helping them acquire them for use. And we have back up vehicles that have those items on them."

On signage, Mercy will be adding their own logos, but will also be making room for the district's calling card.

"We're giving the district the side of the ambulance for the district's logo," Patterson said. "We want to give the district a little presence in all we do. Day by day, we'll bring more vehicles in. We probably have a few little things to do, but otherwise everything is going very well."

Mercy will be hosting a blessing and open house for the Cassville and Shell Knob EMS stations, at 73 Smithson Drive in Cassville at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Patterson said Mercy also contracts with five other ambulance districts.

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