Newport News Fire Department is the recipient of the Governor’s Emergency Medical Services Award for Outstanding EMS Agency of the year.
The award was presented at the 39th Annual Governor’s EMS Awards Ceremony in Norfolk on Saturday November 10, 2018.
NNFD Assistant Chief of EMS Robert E. Lee said the achievement shows the hard work and dedication by NNFD’s emergency medical professionals, as well as the department’s commitment to a progressive and holistic approach to EMS.
“I am proud of the organization. It’s quite an accomplishment,” Lee said. “It’s good to be recognized by the state agency, as well as your peers.”
NNFD was selected earlier this year as the Peninsulas EMS Council’s (PEMS) Outstanding EMS Agency of 2018. The regional award winners from the 11 EMS Councils across the Commonwealth were then eligible to be considered for the Governor’s award.
Outstanding EMS awards are given to agencies that exemplify outstanding professionalism to the communities they serve. The PEMS nomination said NNFD stands out among many other great organizations because of the department’s continued commitment for improvement.
“Each year, NNFD pilots new programs, techniques and procedures in the practice of EMS. Recognizing that not all new initiatives will succeed, the agency also has a robust performance improvement program to monitor the success and failure of these initiatives,” the nomination states.
NNFD implemented initiatives to increase high-quality CPR in 2018, including PulsePoint, an app which alerts trained bystanders when someone nearby needs CPR. The department also started offering hands-only CPR training to community groups. Additionally, Riverside Health System donated to NNFD three LUCAS Chest Compression devices, which allow medics to perform safer and more effective CPR.
NNFD also added a third EMS Supervisor in the last year to support both citizens and EMS providers during difficult illness and trauma calls. The additional position creates ready access to an advanced skill set for the most critical patients, as quickly as possible.
Additionally, NNFD outfitted the entire transport fleet with power lift stretchers, which greatly reduce the physical stress imposed on providers as they respond to more than 24,000 calls for medical service each year.
EMS Medical Director Dr. Cheryl Lawson, of Riverside Health System, said it’s “phenomenal” that NNFD was selected for the state award among the some-600 EMS agencies across the Commonwealth.
“This is huge. For us to get this award, it’s unbelievable,” she said.
Lawson said she’s most impressed by NNFD’s quality improvement program. EMS supervisors regularly review ambulance run reports, praise providers when they see a job well done and also look for areas for improvement. They also research new tools and techniques that can improve patient outcomes.
For example, NNFD was the first department on the Peninsula to implement Rapid Sequence Intubation — the cornerstone of emergency airway management – and NNFD providers have assisted in training other departments on the technique.
“That program was such a success that our fellow agencies have actually adopted it,” Lawson said.
NNFD Interim Fire Chief Scott Liebold said he thinks the most significant program NNFD implemented in about the last year is Mobile Integrated Healthcare/Community Paramedicine. This connects citizens with community resources to address the root causes of unnecessary emergency calls. The program coordinator’s work within the first year reduced calls for service for an identified subset of high-frequency users about 38 percent.
Coordinator Lt. Andre Dorsey said he hopes his work will slowly eliminate issues in the community that are tied to lack of access to resources and health care.
“It provides the community with some glimmer of hope that our most vulnerable citizens will no longer fall between the cracks,” he said.
Liebold said the award is proof that NNFD is on the right track.
“It further supports the work that the men and women in this department continue to do for the community,” he said. “We’re looking at other things to enhance our ability to improve health in the community, one patient at a time.”
*Photo Caption: From left, NNFD Assistant Chief of EMS Robert E. Lee and Lt. Andre Dorsey receive the Governor’s award for Outstanding EMS Agency.