New skill for paramedics

March 06, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Baltimore City paramedics are being trained in the use of endotracheal intubation, an emergency life-saving procedure expected to save "hundreds of lives a year."

In the procedure, a tube is inserted into the throat to help remove obstacles from the esophagus and open airways so that oxygen can be quickly pumped into the lungs before any physical damage can occur.

The procedure reduces the risk of brain damage or death and prevents the buildup of deadly acid in the body.

"The No. 1 priority of all medical teaching and practice is optimal management of the airway," said Dr. Richard Alcorta, acting emergency medical services director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS).

"We expect that hundreds of lives a year will be saved in Baltimore because of this project," Dr. Alcorta said this week.

The program was initiated by Dr. Kimball I. Maull, the former state trauma chief, who recognized last year that Baltimore was the only major city in the United States where the lifesaving technique was not used. Dr. Maull resigned Sunday following an unrelated dispute with doctors at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and top officials of the University of Maryland Medical System.

A paramedic who completes the training will be certified as an Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic, a higher classification, said Capt. Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman.

Captain Torres said 20 paramedics have already been certified in the procedure, another 10 have completed training but are not yet certified, and an additional 20 are in training.

The department has 162 paramedics who are trained and certified as cardiac rescue technicians, the current statewide standard.

With certification in the use of the the endotracheal tube, city lTC paramedics will have attained a higher level of training that fire officials believe will become the statewide standard.

Paramedics in fire departments in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Prince George's counties have been certified in the procedure, as have paramedics in other jurisdictions in Maryland, officials said.

Training in the procedure in the city had been delayed because of a lack of funds needed to pay for equipment and training.

But recently officials of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program donated $26,000 to pay for the cost of four training mannequins and 26 advanced life support units.

The Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. chipped in $5,000 for training expenses.

But city officials are still looking for corporate assistance in obtaining the $21,000 needed for training the rest of the paramedics.

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