Wyoming upgrades emergency medical response from firefighters

Grant allows Wyoming firefighters to get new certification to provide more care

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Chances are that if the alarm rings in a Wyoming firehouse, it will be for a medical emergency somewhere in the city.

“70, 75 percent of our calls are medical first response calls,” Wyoming Fire Department EMS Coordinator Brad Dornbos said.

But as licensed medical first responders, firefighters — who are usually first to arrive on the scene — could only provide the most basic care.

“You would do what you could for the patient — as much as you could,” Dornbos said.

It’s the same situation in fire departments throughout Kent and Ottawa counties. Under the rules, they’re not even allowed to give a heart patient an aspirin.

That’s all changed, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Metro Health Hospital Foundation.

More than two-thirds of the city’s firefighters were already certified as emergency medical technicians, but could not use their skills. With help from the grant, they got new certification that gives them permission to start treatment with medications they weren’t allowed to administer before.

“This is where we have our breathing treatments,” Dornbos showed 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday, opening a box that also contained vital medicines to monitor blood glucose, treat allergic reactions and handle other medical emergencies.

“Those are the treatments they’re going to get when they walk in the ER,” Steven Polega, the director of emergency services at Metro Health Hospital, said. “So the sooner we start them, the better the outcome the patients is going to have.”

Private ambulance companies with paramedics who can administer more advanced treatments like IVs will still respond to emergencies as part of a tiered approach to EMS in Kent County.

The Metro Health grant will allow Wyoming to train the rest of the firefighters as EMTs and buy additional equipment. The Foundation will also support ongoing training.

“I think you’ll start seeing it more and more,” Dornbos said of Wyoming’s new setup. “There’s other communities that are looking towards it and trying to find ways to make it work for them.”

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