Orange Beach, USA Health announce emergency medicine partnership

Crystal Castle/ Islander Editor
Posted 6/12/19

The City of Orange Beach is taking even more strides to help its residents in times of medical emergency. In addition to the new ambulances the city commissioned for its own medical transport …

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Orange Beach, USA Health announce emergency medicine partnership

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The City of Orange Beach is taking even more strides to help its residents in times of medical emergency. In addition to the new ambulances the city commissioned for its own medical transport service, the city recently announced a new partnership with a local health powerhouse.

Starting in July, Orange Beach Fire Department paramedics will team up with resident physicians in the USA Health Department of Emergency Medicine. This will allow those in need of emergency assistance an extra level of care as soon as they are loaded onto an ambulance.

“We’re going to have licensed physicians conducting rotations and responding to medical emergencies in Orange Beach,” said Orange Beach Fire Chief Justin Pearce. “How incredible is that? If you have an emergency in Orange Beach, there is a likelihood that you’ll have a doctor at your front door. That’s amazing.”

Pearce went on to talk about other aspects of the program, including some additional training opportunities for Orange Beach staff.

“The other part of that is our personnel will be exposed to a higher level of clinical decision making,” Pearce said. “So even when these physicians aren’t riding with us, they’ll have a bigger picture, a better picture of what you need at your emergency scene. Orange Beach paramedics will also have access to rotate at the university hospital and USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital to learn and assist with injuries and complex medical conditions that aren’t common in Orange Beach.”

Pearce said as a result of these opportunities, the emergency healthcare provided will be second to none.

“The ability for us to train future emergency physicians while we are also learning from these doctors will make out EMTs and paramedics some of the best in the nation,” Pearce said. “Just one more way we are protecting paradise.”

According to a press release from the City of Orange Beach, USA Health established a new emergency medicine residency program, starting this summer, to begin to overcome a severe shortage of trained emergency physicians in the state. Edward Panacek, M.D., chair of the USA Department of Medicine notes that Alabama ranks 49th in states in terms of the number of board-certified emergency physicians per capita. The new program calls for six new residents each year in the three-year program and will increase the number of new emergency physicians training in the state by 60 percent.

Dr. Paul Henning will serve as the medical director for the Orange Beach EMS program.

“From USA Health, we’re very proud to be the region’s only academic health system,” said Owen Bailey, chief executive officer for USA Health. “Our mission is we help people lead longer, better lives. We do that by providing exceptional patient care and also education and research.”

Bailey said USA Health is growing and expanding its footprint while keeping its focus on the academic mission.

According to the press release, Orange Beach Fire Department began transporting emergency medical patients on May 28, 2019 to provide a high level of emergency medical care to the citizens and visitors. With the Orange Beach City Council’s support, the department purchased two state-of-the-art ambulances, plus equipment, and fully staffs the transport units with paramedics and advanced EMTs 24 hours daily. In 2018, the Orange Beach Fire Department responded to over 3,000 incidents for the first time in its history with a minimum daily staffing of 17 firefighters. The department currently has 57 full-time firefighters on staff, 37 of which are also paramedics.

Mayor Tony Kennon said for some time now, city leaders have been worried about Orange Beach residents’ access to healthcare.

“It’s a good little ride up the road to the hospital,” Kennon said. “For those of us over (the age of) 25, you’re lying there with chest pain or you have a loved one you think might be having a stroke or someone’s fallen and hit their head—the ride to South Baldwin (Regional Medical Center) can seem like an eternity. (…) I don’t think we’ve accomplished anything greater than this right here.”