State budget cuts affecting training for emergency medical workers have hospital officials in rural Western Maryland fearful of what kind of shape critically injured people may be in when they arrive in emergency rooms.
Some hospitals are joining forces with local fire and rescue officials to create new ways to train emergency medical personnel. Others are contemplating increasing the training programs they now offer.
The fear is less treatment for injured people at the scene of accidents -- considered a critical time in saving lives.
"We are very concerned about the cuts," said John Costopoulos, spokesman for Washington County Hospital Center in Hagerstown. "If people are not trained to make limited interventions on the spot, people will be coming to us in more serious condition than they are now."
Kathy Rogers, spokeswoman for Cumberland Memorial Hospital, voiced the same fears about what could happen in the field. "Patients will not be getting the advanced level of care in the field that they are currently getting," she said.
The budget for the state Emergency Medical Services System, which provides training and certification for emergency medical service personnel, is facing severe cuts as part of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget-cutting plans.
Washington County Hospital Center has supported petition drives by emergency medical personnel protesting the cuts and other lobbying efforts to gain public attention for their concerns, Mr. Costopoulos said.
In Western Maryland, nearly all of the emergency medical personnel are volunteers. "It's enough of a challenge to get enough volunteers to do this work," Mr. Costopoulos said.
Plans are in the works in Allegany and Garrett counties to establish the Emergency Medical Services Training Foundation of Western Maryland. The foundation's purpose would be to promote and provide improved education in the field of emergency medicine, said Kathy Rogers, spokeswoman for Cumberland Memorial Hospital, which is donating funds and services for the foundation.
"We want to keep as many EMS personnel in the field as possible so that when there is a trauma, excellent care will be provided at the scene," Ms. Rogers said.