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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, July 19, 2024


May 25, 2002 – While St. John's emergency medical technicians always have responded to medical emergencies within the V.I. National Park, a new agreement between the park and the Health Department's Emergency Medical Services has formalized that relationship.
"We're now pro-active," said Carol Beckowitz, president of the Emergency Medical Services Association of St. John, which facilitated the formal agreement.
Beckowitz cited better communication between park and EMS staff and the loan of a multifunctional piece of equipment called Lifepack 12 to EMS by the Park as benefits.
The Lifepack 12 is a defibrillator, a cardiac monitor capable of running electrocardiograms in the field, a blood pressure monitor and an oxygen saturation monitor. It allows emergency medical technicians to perform a higher level of care during cardiac and other emergencies than is otherwise possible.
Park officials will hand over the Lifepack 12 to EMS in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Battery. Park Superintendent John King said that in order for the park to lend EMS the equipment, a formal agreement was necessary. "It also gives them authority within the park," he said.
The community is the big winner in this arrangement. As tourism grows and the number of people living on St. John rises, EMS is called upon to do more. However, the department's resources do not allow for a bigger and better equipped EMS. "We were stretched pretty thin, so we had to come up with a way to provide better service with the resources we have on hand," Beckowitz said.
The V.I. National Park is one of those resources. As an example of how it can help EMS, it located trainers and paid for their travel costs so St. John's EMT's could get their required bi-annual recertification on island, rather than having to make a trip to St. Thomas. During the training, 28 park and Fire Service employees also received certification as "first responders."
People with this certification are qualified to provide basic care at medical emergencies while waiting for more advanced EMTs to arrive. The fact that those people now have first responder status improves the level of care for people in need. Before the training, Beckowitz said, only the park's few lifeguards were able to provide the first response to medical emergencies.
And, Beckowitz said, improved communication between the park and EMS also helps to improve service. "They tell us exactly what is happening," she said, referring to medical emergencies within the park. She said the park and the association expect to work on ways to respond more effectively to medical emergencies in remote locations. It could take an hour to reach an injured or sick hiker on foot, for example, she said.
"I've carried my fair share of patients out of the Reef Bay trail," Beckowitz said.
She said the number of concessionaires conducting hikes within the park continues to rise. The companies tend to take visitors on longer hikes to more remote locations, which increases the potential for problems.
The association, formed a year and a half ago, includes all the EMT's who work for EMS.
Beckowitz said the group installed a soda machine outside its Cruz Bay headquarters and uses the proceeds to help pay for repairs and small pieces of equipment for the island's ambulance boat, the Star of Life. It also bought a piece of equipment to train people in using defibrillators, she said. There are defibrillators at the Coral Bay fire station, paid for through private donations, and the park placed one at popular Trunk Bay.
The association also coordinates professional training for staff at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center. It accepted a 25-foot power boat that the owner intended for use as a back up ambulance boat. But, Beckowitz said, the boat needed lots of work to make it into an ambulance. With the agreement of the boat donor, the association instead sold the vessel and is using the proceeds from the sale to make emergency repairs to the Star of Life.

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