Archive for Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Local physician to work with firefighters

March 29, 2006

Tonganoxie will be joining only a few cities its size to have a medical director, according to Fire Chief Dave Bennett.

In a unanimous vote, the city council on Monday approved Tonganoxie physician Bill Weatherford as its medical director.

The city will pay Weatherford $6,000 annually for his work with the fire department.

Although Weatherford is the medical director, he is not required to go out on calls. Instead he is more of an adviser for the fire department, according to Bennett. In addition, Weatherford will have malpractice insurance for the position, meaning the city will not have any liability regarding the fire department.

Bennett explained to the council that by having a medical director, the fire department could do more as a first responder to calls, 60 percent of which, he said, are for medical emergencies.

Currently, without a medical director, firefighters are limited to assisting people through basic CPR and first aid.

With a medical director, certified firefighters will be able to use advanced airway techniques and, for example, administer aspirin or nitroglycerin to heart patients. Because a medical director can provide drugs, the certified firefighters can administer medicine to patients.

Bennett said of about the 20 firefighters in his department, 11 are emergency medical technicians, two are paramedics and the rest are CPR-certified.

The fire chief wants his emergency medical technicians to enroll in classes in coming months so they'll have emergency medical technician-intermediate status.

With that certification, they can use advanced airway techniques, such as administering oxygen to patients through a tube. And they could provide fluids to patients using intravenous needles. However, they would not administer medicine intravenously.

They also can administer certain medications orally.

The department's two paramedics, he said, already are qualified in those areas.

Bennett is hopeful the move will mean better emergency care for patients waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

"We're going to be able to do more for that patient than we currently can do," Bennett said.

Weatherford said Tuesday that he plans to have monthly meetings with department members to analyze calls.

"I'll review what they're doing on medical calls and see any ways they can improve how they handle things."

Bennett said firefighters will follow protocol that Weatherford will determine.

When Bennett approached Weatherford about being medical director, he said he was very interested.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity," Weatherford said. "It was something I would enjoy doing."

Weatherford, who lives in Tonganoxie, is a physician at Family Medicine of Tonganoxie, a clinic owned by Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Bennett anticipates that Weatherford's protocols will be established by June or July.

"I just can't say enough for Dr. Weatherford," Bennett said. "He has really jumped in there and helped us out."

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