Photos and article by Mary Alice Murphy

The Gila Regional Medical Center Auxiliary raises money with fundraisers throughout the year to purchase needed equipment for GRMC departments.

At the Auxiliary's monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 11, Emergency Medical Services Director Eloy Medina and EMT Laurie Tavonatti demonstrated some equipment that the Auxiliary had purchased for the department.

"Thank you, guys," Medina said. "I've been director for four years. One of the first letters I received as director was from the Auxiliary asking me to apply for items and put them on a wish list. What you have provided to us is not a truck, but components that make everything work. Thank you from the bottom of our heart.

He said the Public Regulation Commission regulates how much equipment EMS needs on each truck.

"We are an elderly community," Medina said. "We use this backboard a lot. It's a rigid piece. Although there is a lot of controversy around use of the backboard, our local medical director recommends we still use it. We have three per unit. The person is strapped on to the board, with head stabilization, with two clips across the chest, one across the hips and one across the knees. We also use pads, because not everyone is flat. It's about comfort and quality of care for the patients."

He said the department has 11 ambulances. "We try to keep 40 backboards in stock. But when someone is transported on them, the trauma centers just take the boards and throw them into their truck. We are asking for an emblem to put on them recognizing it was purchased for us by the Auxiliary. The boards cost $193 each. For small children, we will put more pads on them. We do have smaller ones for babies. They can carry up to 500 pounds. If we need more than that, we can strap two together. They are designed to fit in a helicopter."

Medina said the boards disappear into other units or trucks or into closets after the patient has been transported. "We don't try to get them back, especially not from smaller communities where they might need them."

He also demonstrated a scoop backboard. "The regular backboard can be X-rayed through, but not the scoop, because it's metal. You bought us three scoops, which allow us to carry a patient with a minimal amount of movement. They cost $393 each, plus $50 for the straps. They carry the patient until he or she can be transferred directly to a gurney in the ambulance."

He also said they received four traction splints, which are used to secure femur fractures. He showed how femur fractures usually break and the bone pushes over the other portion of bone, causing severe pain. The traction splint can be used to pull the bone back together to relieve a lot of the pain. He described it as like reeling in a fish.

"When we receive brand new equipment, we move it to the front-line trucks and move the older equipment to the older trucks," Medina said.

When asked how long a person with a broken femur would remain in the traction splint, Medina said they can remain in the splint in the emergency room until a decision is made on what to do.

He said to lift someone on a backboard requires more than two personnel. "We have double female crews, so if the board and person weigh 400 pounds or more, we tell them to sit tight, we'll get there."

The GRMC EMS Department has a staff of 51, including drivers, to staff 11 ambulances, with one support crew.

"We receive about 5,000 calls a year," Medina said. "About 390 to 485 a month. Three paramedic trucks are staffed around the clock. We also have a transfer crew on call to take people to Tucson, Phoenix, Las Cruces, El Paso or Albuquerque."

The helicopters do not belong to the EMS Department but are run by Air Methods. "They have one helicopter here. If we need another, one can come from Deming. During the day, we have two trucks, one in Silver City and one in Bayard. If we leave the core of the city, then Bayard moves to Arenas Valley. If Bayard goes to Mimbres, we move to a closer location to the Mining District."

Frances Day, who was a good sport and let the scoop be demonstrated on her, asked what the department would do in the case of mass numbers of casualties.

"We have Operation Teamwork," Medina said. "It might stress the facility, but we rely on services, and call Operation Teamwork to get more staff into the ER. We use triage to treat the most critical first. Other resources may be public transport. The walking wounded, we can put on a bus to Deming or Las Cruces. We have memoranda of understanding with Luna, Hidalgo and Catron counties. We never leave the system alone. The whole county has a two-tier service, with the Fire Department and the Ambulance Service. It takes a lot of strategic planning.

"My staff is very good," Medina continued. "They have a lot of experience. They are amazing and they all work hard."

He noted the shifts are 24-hours, with 12 and 12 or 18 on and six on call.

"Our newer trucks have GPS," Medina said. "The trucks are always locked. The building is always locked. We have an ambulance in the Mimbres, one in Cliff-Gila and one in Bayard."

He invited the auxilians to take a tour. "We never turn down a tour request."

Live from Silver City

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