They’ve pulled injured people out of burning buildings, performed ice rescues, delivered babies while on the road, started IVs and intubations in the back of a truck, and revived far too many people who have overdosed on opioids with their ever-present supply of Narcan.
Emergency medical technicians, ambulance crews trained to respond quickly to medical emergencies, trauma situations and accidents, are a critical but often overshadowed component of public safety.
They’ll be found working in what one EMT called “a well-choreographed dance” with firefighters and police officers anytime a 911 call comes in. But often the role of emergency medical services as health care providers gets lost from public view in the tidy news summary that a patient was rushed to the hospital.
May 21-27 is the 43rd annual National EMS Week, in which the National Association of EMTs, in partnership with the American College of Emergency Physicians, seeks to recognize the vital contribution of EMTs to community health and safety.
A Telegram & Gazette reporter and photographer rode along with Worcester Emergency Medical Services paramedics this week, getting a view from the road of calamities large and small. On these days, it was mainly the everyday stuff of age, illness and disability - perhaps not dramatic, but the conditions and events that ultimately take their toll on most people.
Worcester EMS is a clinical department of UMass Memorial Medical Center. With approximately 90 paramedics, EMTs who have the highest level of training, Worcester EMS contracts with Worcester and Shrewsbury to provide around-the-clock coverage.
Seven ambulances drive all day in Worcester and four handle the nights. Shrewsbury has one ambulance assigned during the day and one at night, but Worcester will cover for Shrewsbury if needed.
In addition to the ambulances, supervisors, who are also paramedics, ride the streets in two Chevrolet Tahoes or a Suburban, outfitted with communications equipment and medical supply bags, to direct emergency response, coordinate with police and fire departments, or provide backup.