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Inside the Ambulance

The West Feliciana Hospital’s brand-new Mercedes ambulance cost approximately $90,000.

When every second counts, here’s why it’s worth every penny.

The inside of an ambulance is a place most people hope never to see. But if you ever find yourself in need of emergency medical transportation, you’ll hope the ambulance that comes for you is as well-equipped as the ones from West Feliciana Hospital.

Emergency Medical Services director Chris Fitzgerald and his team strive daily to improve the patient experience, from shortening their emergency response times, to prioritizing patient comfort and meticulous medical care. “We stress patient care and patient respect—we want patients to feel as if they were one of our own family members,” Fitzgerald says.

In times of crisis, a fast ride can also mean a bumpy one — Fitzgerald says the most common complaint he receives is the rough ambulance ride. “I understand the discomfort, of course,” he says. ”You’re riding backwards in a bed.”

In an effort to improve on that, the hospital’s existing ambulance fleet has expanded to include a new Mercedes Sprinter van, equipped with all the features of a regular “box-style” ambulance, Fitzgerald explains, but with plenty of upgrades.

Check out a few of the new facets you’ll find in the Sprinter model, ranging from ergonomic enhancements to more sophisticated medical care.

A smoother ride.

With the volume of medical equipment ambulances carry, they’re heavy machines. Many vehicles aren’t made to transport this type of bulk, nor are they meant to be driven the way that paramedics and EMTs must drive them in an emergency. The Sprinter sits lighter on its shocks, Fitzgerald says, so patients will experience a smoother, less bumpy ride.

State-of-the-art medical equipment that makes a difference.

The Sprinter van is equipped with a Glidescope—a camera tool paramedics use to view inside a patient’s larynx, or windpipe. When it comes to cardiac trouble, most rural ambulance services carry three- or four-lead EKG cardiac monitors, Fitzgerald says. However, the Sprinter’s cardiac monitors show a twelve-lead EKG, which provides a highly accurate reading of a patient’s cardiac rhythm, allowing the team to determine which wing of the hospital a patient should be delivered to. “Our machine allows us to transmit EKGs to a hospital before we get there,” Fitzgerald explains. “If we have a patient having an active heart attack, we’re able to send that EKG to the cath lab and they’ll activate the cath team, so we can bypass the ER and roll the patient straight to specific treatment.”

360 safety features.

The inside of the smooth-riding Sprinter is impressive, sure, but what’s on the outside? Fifteen cameras that capture every angle of the vehicle’s exterior. Fitzgerald and his crew often find themselves pulling into tight quarters, he says, and a crowd of onlookers or loved ones may have formed by the time the van is ready to leave, which can create a precarious situation. “When we’re pulling out of a driveway, it’s a race against time,” Fitzgerald says. “A lot of times, we’re on narrow passageways and driveways and bridges, and it helps to have a lot of extra eyes on all sides of us.”

An ambulance is a mini-hospital, Fitzgerald says, moving in a race against time. The improved capabilities of the new Sprinter ambulance allow West Feliciana Hospital to project its advanced services out beyond the campus doors and into the community it serves.

West Feliciana Hospital participates in LERN, (the Louisiana Emergency Response Network). For more information about this and all the hospital’s emergency care services, click here.

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