Metropolitan Boston EMS Council, Lahey Clinic Team Up for Regional H1N1 Flu Preparedness

Members of the Metropolitan Boston Emergency Medical Services Council (MBEMSC) have come together to help area EMS providers prepare their workforces for the H1N1 flu pandemic.
It is another example where members of the MBEMSC regional group have come together to create a coordinated effort that proactively implements disaster preparedness ahead of an event.
The Lahey Clinic is supporting the MBEMSC’s community preparations through its Community Benefits Initiative. The Lahey Clinic has awarded a $64,000 Emergency Preparedness Grant for a project aimed at decreasing pre-hospital emergency personnel person-to-person transmission of the virus.
The MBEMSC have used the funds to purchase a substantial cache of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is accessible to EMS providers in the 61 communities of EMS Region IV in the event of a severe H1N1 outbreak or other catastrophe.
“Community based safety and health care workers that provide emergency and trauma services often get overlooked from public funding sources. We are in a position to help supplement the pre-hospital emergency medical system,” said Jeff Doran, Senior Vice President of Operations at the Lahey Clinic, and a member of the Community Benefits Initiative Committee.
The Lahey Clinic’s Community Benefits Initiative – overseen by a Community Benefits Initiative Committee comprised of both hospital and community representatives – has been funding projects in response to identified community health and wellness needs for more than 12 years. Some of their other recently implemented community-based programs have benefitted senior citizens, victims of domestic violence, people with tuberculosis and children.
Disaster Preparedness Post 9/11
Funding for the Community Benefits Initiative comes from the Lahey Clinic’s annual operating budget, Doran said.
“We are a non-profit health-care system; part of our mission is to serve the community,” he said.
About five years ago, partly as a response to 9/11, some of the Lahey Clinic’s community funding became specifically earmarked for emergency and disaster preparedness.
Money from this Emergency Preparedness Grant has been used over the past few years, for example, to help the MBEMSC as well as the Northeast Emergency Medical Services (Region III) purchase emergency vehicles and equipment. It’s also been used to fund educational seminars
Cache of Equipment
A few months ago, when the World Health Organization declared an H1N1 flu pandemic, MBEMSC Executive Director John Guidara approached Doran to inquire whether the Emergency Preparedness Grant could be directed to support H1N1 flu preparedness.
“I thought that was a fantastic opportunity and conferred with the committee’s leadership. If the Regional Council has targeted strategies that will advance community health efforts, that is something we love to support,” said Doran, who has also served on the MBEMSC Board of Directors for a number of years.
The MBEMSC has used the grant to purchase a cache of PPE that includes 25,000 gowns; 25,000 N95 respirators; 150,000 surgical masks; 5,000 goggles; and 20 fit test kits.
The cache of equipment is being maintained at Fallon Ambulance Service, Cataldo Ambulance Service, and Pro EMS in Cambridge. EMS organizations urgently needing PPE will be able to request and purchase supplies from the stockpile. Using the purchase money, the cache will be replenished over time.
“When the H1N1 flu hits, providers might not be able to order this equipment,” said Bill Mergendahl, Chief Executive Officer of Pro EMS, who also serves on the MBEMSC’s Board of Directors. “This coordinated effort will meet an enormous need.”
Mergendahl recalls the recent June 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, when protective equipment was backordered from suppliers. Many EMS organizations were unable to obtain all of the PPE necessary to protect the health and safety of both patients and providers.
Certain conditions contribute to the pressing need for community emergency preparedness: the as-yet unavailability of a vaccine; the fact that H1N1 is a novel virus to which no one is immune; and the complicating presence of the expected seasonal flu.
Helping prevent transmission of the H1N1 virus – including implementing vaccination programs when an H1N1 vaccine becomes available – is crucial in planning for the anticipated severe outbreak.
The PPE cache plan is “a good front-line prevention measure,” with the entire community of EMTs, paramedics, health care providers, and residents benefitting, Doran said.
For an article by the MBEMSC on these Emergency Preparedness efforts, click here. (Link to MBEMSC article.)
About the Lahey Clinic:
The Lahey Clinic, founded in 1923, is a non-profit, physician-led group practice. Approximately 500 physicians and 4,500 nurses, therapists and other support staff provide comprehensive services to patients at two Lahey Clinic Medical Center (LCMC) sites in Burlington, MA, and Peabody, MA, as well as in community-based practices throughout northeastern Massachusetts.
Specialized centers such as the Cerebrovascular Disease Center and the Heart & Vascular Center provide advanced care using the most current technology and procedures. In addition, Lahey Clinic’s excellence in treating urological conditions has been recognized for the past six years in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals”.
A teaching hospital for Tufts University School of Medicine, LCMC trains new physicians in both general medicine and subspecialty residency and fellowship programs.
Committed to research, Lahey Clinic’s physicians and researchers participate in both national and international studies. Currently, more than 200 clinical trial protocols are in progress.
For more information, see:
About Metropolitan Boston EMS Council:
The MBEMSC is the agency that has been designated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to coordinate the delivery of emergency medical services to more than 2 million residents living in EMS Region IV.
Governed by a Board of Directors, which includes representatives from EMS organizations, hospitals, fire departments, state and local government, and the public, the group meets quarterly to work toward maximizing the availability and quality of emergency care.
The 61 communities in EMS Region IV are served by 70 licensed ambulance services – public, private and volunteer – and 25 acute-care hospitals.
For more information about the MBEMSC, see:

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