Paramedic Level Care
It’s more than just a ride to the hospital when it’s your medical emergency. The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division is a component of the County Department of Public Safety, and the provider of “paramedic” level service to the incorporated and unincorporated areas of New Castle County. New Castle County Paramedics are deployed from satellite EMS stations located throughout the County.
All New Castle County Paramedics are certified by the state Board of Medical Practice to provide “advanced life support” care. Their goal is to bring many of the same skills and procedures of a hospital emergency room directly to the patient’s side. County paramedics can administer breathing treatments and even insert breathing tubes directly into a patient’s lungs, administer intravenous fluids and drugs, conduct heart monitoring and 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretations, and defibrillate or pace a patient’s heart.
All of these capabilities are available in an emergency simply by DIALING 9-1-1.
New Castle County Paramedics respond in distinctive red and gold striped response vehicles that provide temperature controlled storage of the medications and equipment utilized to provide advanced life support in the field. Most paramedic vehicles have four wheel drive capability for improved response capability during inclement weather or off-road conditions.
The New Castle County Paramedics deploy 9 paramedic units during the day and 8 paramedic units during the night.
Dispatch and Tiered Response
All emergency medical services resources in New Castle County are dispatched from a county-wide communications center. Paramedics are assigned to those higher-priority medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, serious motor vehicle collisions, difficulty breathing and unconscious persons. The level of response is determined by the emergency communications center based on the answers provided by the caller to a set of standardized questions.
The New Castle County Paramedics work in a “tiered response” configuration with the twenty-one county volunteer fire company basic life support (BLS) ambulances, the Wilmington Fire Department and its contractual private BLS ambulance service provider, and even the University of Delaware student-operated BLS ambulance. Lower priority emergencies that do not require the advanced life support services of the paramedics are normally handled by the BLS ambulance provider.
Advanced life support prioritized emergencies are assigned both a BLS ambulance and the closest County paramedic unit. In some cases, such as a possible cardiac arrest, police officers and fire apparatus may also be dispatched to provide a “first response” capability. In fact, many police cars are equipped with automatic external defibrillators ( AED’s) to provide electric shocks in an effort to restart the heart during cases of cardiac arrest. The County Paramedics will ride in the BLS ambulance and accompany the patient to the hospital whenever the patient requires advanced life support care.
A vital role in a paramedic’s work is the coordination of care with a receiving hospital. New Castle County Paramedics will contact the receiving hospital to provide advance notice of the patient’s pending arrival. In critical situations, County Paramedics can mobilize special hospital resources even before the patient arrives. For instance, New Castle County Paramedics routinely activate special hospital heart teams when they determine by 12-lead ECG that a patient may be having a heart attack. This has been proven to shorten the time from the patient’s arrival at the hospital to their receipt of definitive care.
County Paramedics will contact a hospital by radio to facilitate an orderly transfer of care from the field to the hospital. In some circumstances, the paramedics may be advised that the patient’s hospital of choice may be experiencing delays in seeing patients and requesting that ambulances transport to other facilities. This coordination provides an opportunity for the patient to make an informed decision regarding their selected destination, and possibly avoid delays in treatment.
The New Castle County Paramedics routinely coordinate the transport of critical patients from the scene to area hospitals via helicopter. The Delaware State Police Aviation Section provides aeromedical transport capability and is dispatched on any incident with the potential of serious injury. In situations involving critical patients the County paramedic will accompany the state police Trooper-Paramedic to provide another advanced life support provider during the transport.
Field Operations Supervision
The New Castle County Paramedics are organized into shifts or “platoons”, each with an EMS Lieutenant as the platoon commander and a Paramedic Sergeant as the field supervisor and assistant shift commander. The EMS Shift Commander’s Office is open on a 24-hour basis, and can be reached on a non-emergency basis by calling 302-395-8180.
Remember: DIAL 9-1-1 TO REPORT AN EMERGENCY.