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Editorial: To our health: Better coverage for the new year

We all hope not ever to have a medical crisis and need to be rushed by ambulance to the hospital.

The choice, however, is not completely in our control. Should that need ever arise, there's good news to report from the River Falls Area Ambulance.

Jeff Rixmann, ambulance director for 13 years, says the local ambulance service recently was licensed by Wisconsin's Department of Health EMS division to operate at Critical Care Paramedic Level, starting Jan. 1.

Rixmann reports that this is the highest of all ambulance service levels. In layman's terms, it basically means our local ambulance can treat just about any kind of condition directed by a doctor during pick up and transfer to a hospital.

River Falls Area Ambulance, serving a population of roughly 35,000, is projected to have more than 1,900 calls for the current year. Rixmann estimated that 20-25% have critical care needs.

Without the new critical care license, patients who required blood products or the administering of multiple and continuous drug infusions couldn't be transported. Instead, our hospital would have to reach farther out to contact another qualified ambulance service. That would mean taking more time, ultimately, to reach the patient.

River Falls was licensed at the paramedic level in 2007. Overall there are six levels of EMS care. Rixmann says the upgrade to critical care makes River Falls among the first in the region outside the Twin Cities. The range of people who may need this kind of care varies, ranging from heart to severe diabetic patients.

The River Falls Area Ambulance has a staff of just under 50 -- 16 are trained paramedics, 11 are certified as critical-care paramedics.

One ambulance vehicle will be equipped and have the medication inventory for a critical-care response. Dr. Tim Steinmetz of the River Falls Medical Clinic was the medical director who oversaw local EMS policies, procedures and training. Starting in January, Steinmetz's colleague, Dr. Tom Monahan takes over.

The new critical care state license is good for two years. So in 2014, Rixmann said River Falls Area Ambulance will need to reapply to retain that license.

Meanwhile, the new year will bring the highest level of emergency medical care ever offered in River Falls. That reflects a commitment for our community from the local ambulance that's worth noting and praising.

Still time to submit resolutions

This is your last chance to get your say by sending in your hopes, dreams, and resolutions for 2013. They can be funny, poignant, inspiring, anything you want. We will be printing them in the first paper of the new year.

Please submit your first and last name, phone number (won't be published, used to verify content), township or city of residence and a picture of yourself -- either a headshot or a photo pertaining to your resolution to Jill Dexheimer or stop in at the Journal office, 2815 Prairie Drive.