Mercyhealth’s MD-1 celebrates 5 years of service

Program has expanded into 3 counties
Mercyhealth’s MD-1 celebrates 5 years of service

Doctors, paramedics and fire officials gathered Thursday to eat cake and celebrate five years of service for Mercyhealth’s MD-1 Emergency Response program.

The program puts doctors on the road so they are able to quickly respond to critical calls if paramedics need help.

The program started in Rock County about six months after Dr. Jay MacNeal started working at Mercyhealth in 2013.

“We are a 24/7/365 service,” MacNeal said. “We’ll respond to major car accidents, industrial accidents, cardiac arrest, severe burns or anytime the EMS providers need some extra skill sets on-scene.”

Mercyhealth MD-1 Program Celebrates Five Years

On March 1, Mercyhealth Prehospital and Emergency Services Center…

Posted by Mercyhealth Prehospital and Emergency Services Center on Thursday, March 1, 2018

MacNeal is Mercyhealth’s EMS medical director and the director of the MD-1 program. He said there was a similar program at Yale when he was doing his EMS fellowship. He brought the idea to Mercyhealth when he was hired. Since it started in 2013, it’s expanded to seven doctors across Rock, Walworth and Winnebago counties.

“The Rock County truck runs about 120 calls a year. The Walworth truck runs about 250 calls a year, and then the Rockford truck runs about 400 calls a year,” MacNeal said. “So system-wide, we’re looking at about 800 calls a year between the three trucks, so it’s fairly busy.”

He said the doctors rotate 24-hour shifts across the three counties.

“We take the vehicles home or to church or to restaurants, so my kids are totally used to riding everywhere with mom when dad’s on call, and we drive separate,” MacNeal said.

The SUVs are equipped with high-dollar emergency equipment, including cardiac arrest bags, video intubation and portable ultrasounds.

“Medicine is a changing field, and we’ve found it very effective to have doctors in the field working directly with the EMS providers to get that change out to the field that much faster,” MacNeal said.

He said the program also helps doctors and paramedics work together better. The paramedics can call the MD-1 doctors with questions and get help over the phone or in-person, if it’s a more serious case.

“It really builds that integration between prehospital and hospital,” MacNeal said. “We are part of their team, and they are part of our team, and it’s all one big lifesaving team now.”

Deputy Chief Jim Ponkauskas, with the Janesville Fire Department, said before the MD-1 program started, all the agencies in Rock County had different standards when responding to calls. Now that the emergency response program is in place, the protocol is standardized.

“If something would happen and we had to split crews, we are very comfortable with a Beloit paramedic operating with a Janesville paramedic and vice versa,” Ponkauskas said.

He is in charge of the Janesville EMS program and said the paramedics tell him it’s a comfort to know the MD-1 program is available.

“Knowing if we can reach out, we have a question on something, we may come across something that we don’t see very often, it’s that resource that we can reach out to MD-1 docs and say, ‘We got this, we’re not really sure how it’s going to fit into our protocol. What route should we be going?'” Ponkauskas said.

MacNeal said the doctors who operate the MD-1 vehicles also spend about half their time in the emergency room at Mercyhealth making sure they stay up-to-date on their skills.