ORANGE BEACH, Alabama - USA Health and the City of Orange Beach are bringing a new and progressive care concept to the region through a partnership for emergency medicine services.
Beginning in July, resident physicians in the USA Health Department of Emergency Medicine will team with paramedics at the Orange Beach Fire Department. This effort will expand the breadth of health care knowledge and experience at emergency scenes while helping the emergency medicine residents gain a deeper understanding of what occurs, from the initial alert when the call to 911 is dispatched all the way to the emergency department via transport.
“This partnership between the city and USA Health is a trailblazing effort that will provide high-quality, second-to-none emergency patient care for residents and visitors in Orange Beach,” Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said. “While no one asks for a medical emergency, it will be comforting to know that when someone calls 911 in Orange Beach there is a good possibility they will have an emergency medicine physician resident responding with our highly trained EMTs.”
John Marymont, M.D., vice president for medical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, said the partnership typifies how USA Health is working to transform medicine in the Upper Gulf Coast Region.
“We are bringing new ideas and new practices to the area to provide even better care to the people we serve,” Dr. Marymont said. “We are honored to be able to join the City of Orange Beach in this endeavor to enhance emergency care.”
In their second year, residents will join the Orange Beach Fire Department crews on a rotational basis, responding to 911 calls within the city that will provide a higher level of knowledge and care to the community. Additionally, an attending physician from USA Health will be available at all times, further enhancing the care that will be provided to citizens. Orange Beach paramedics will have the ability to work with University Hospital and Children’s & Women’s Hospital to enhance their clinical skills and through on-scene clinical decision making they will be able to apply that training to future incidents when the resident physician may not be present.
“This training allows our residents to gain a deeper understanding of what their EMS colleagues undertake at the scene of an emergency,” said Edward Panacek, M.D., chair of the USA Department of Medicine. ”Through this training, the residents will be able to envision what is occurring at the scene and the complexity of the situation. Ultimately, this should enhance the care to the people who need it.”
Orange Beach Fire Chief Justin Pearce said the city is fortunate to have this new relationship with USA Health.
“It brings a new level of healthcare to our community that few others have been able to achieve,” Chief Pearce said. “This initiative was born through the collaboration of Dr. Paul Henning and Dr. Stephanie Pearce on how the two entities could best work together and provide opportunities that would serve the interests of EMS, future physicians and our community. I am grateful for their work and interest in educating such a large cross section of health care professionals in our region. The opportunity to help train future emergency physicians while increasing our department’s medical knowledge and service to Orange Beach is truly exciting and groundbreaking.”
Dr. Henning will serve as the medical director for the Orange Beach EMS program.
USA Health established a new emergency medicine residency program, starting this summer, to begin to overcome a severe shortage of trained emergency physicians in the state. Panacek notes that Alabama ranks 49th in states in terms of the number of board-certified emergency physicians per capita. The new program calls for six new residents each year in the three-year program and will increase the number of new emergency physicians training in the state by 60 percent.
“One of our roles is serving as a resource throughout our region,” said Owen Bailey, chief executive officer for USA Health. “We felt that having a formal affiliation agreement with Orange Beach was a significant demonstration of our desire to join with our community partner to provide much needed high-quality care to the people of our region not only today, but in the future through the training of the next generation of care providers.”
Orange Beach Fire Department began transporting emergency medical patients on May 28, 2019 to provide a high level of emergency medical care to the citizens and visitors. With the Orange Beach City Council’s support, the department purchased two state-of-the-art ambulances, plus equipment, and fully staffs the transport units with paramedics and advanced EMTs 24 hours daily. In 2018, the Orange Beach Fire Department responded to over 3,000 incidents for the first time in its history with a minimum daily staffing of 17 firefighters. The department currently has 57 full-time firefighters on staff, 37 of which are also paramedics.
“Investing in our public safety, specifically the medical response staffing and the equipment, has been a top priority for the City of Orange Beach for many years,” Orange Beach City Administrator Ken Grimes said. “The majority (88 percent) of our Fire Department personnel are now Advanced EMTs or higher and we are proud to provide to our citizens and guests the best care possible. This partnership with USA Health is another step in the right direction as we serve a population of over 100,000 in the peak summer weeks as tourists come to Alabama’s beaches. Orange Beach wants to be a model of how to serve and respond as we ‘protect paradise.’”
“We are very excited to have the resources and expertise provided by the City of Orange Beach and USA Health available in the community,” said Daniel McKinney, chief executive officer for South Baldwin Regional Medical Center. “As healthcare providers we all must look at innovative ways to continue to strengthen the care delivered in this region.”