CATES: EMS week 2019 is importantCarol Cates is the chief nursing officer at Odessa Regional Medical Center. You can reach her via e-mail at Carol.Cates@steward.org

As EMS week is wrapping up, I wanted to say a personal Thank You to all of the EMS providers in Odessa and the Permian Basin. You are very special men and women with a calling that makes the world a much better, much safer place. Thank you for all you do for this community every day. The words “Thank You” really do not express how much you are appreciated, but they are the only words I have. The Permian Basin is a better place because of you.

We have many EMS providers here in Odessa, all of whom do an amazing service for the community. I did, however, want to especially recognize and brag on the services provided by Odessa Fire Rescue (OFR) and their EMS providers. The city of Odessa recognized the impact that the EMS services make on our community by changing the name of the Odessa Fire Department to Odessa Fire Rescue about 10 years ago, and that impact has only grown.

The demand on OFR EMS services is astronomical. Just to give you an idea of the demand on our EMS providers, the US Census Bureau estimated the population of Houston to be 2,313,000 in 2017. In 2018, the Houston Fire Department made 296,918 EMS calls, in other words, 12.8% of the people in Houston called EMS that year.  For those same time period OFR, made 18,560 calls. With our population in 2017 estimated at 116,861 that means OFR called on 15.8% of our citizens, a full 3% more demand than in Houston—the 4th largest city in the United States. And, it’s not just the numbers that our EMS providers see that make their job so demanding, it’s the severity of the calls. According to the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance, fatal crashes doubled in Midland/Odessa between 2016 and 2017. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, they expect 2018 data once finalized to again double the 2017 deaths.  11% of the fatal crashes in Texas happened in the Permian Basin—an area that only holds 1.6% of the state population. Our EMS providers see a much larger proportion of severe injury and death than providers in any other part of the state.

espite the demand on our EMS providers at OFR, the still manage to be one of the top EMS services in the state and the nation. Did you know that OFR was the first provider of 911 services in Texas and the 6th in the nation to provide 911 service? OFR was the first EMS provider in Texas to purchase and operate the “Jaws of Life” hydraulic rescue tools. They have been named a GOLD award winner for EMS care of heart attack patients in the pre-hospital setting, they are only one of 11 EMS departments in the State of Texas to receive this award. When I recommend calling 911 in my weekly articles for various symptoms, there is a reason— you will have exceptional care in the hands of OFR.

A new community award, EMS Steward of the Community, will be presented to several of our EMS providers for the first time on May 30th. Those award winners are nominated and voted on by the citizens of Odessa. While voting has closed for 2019, this is an award that will be held every year to honor the service and sacrifices of our EMS providers in Odessa. I hope you don’t need to use the services provided by OFR or any other of our EMS providers over the next year, but if you do, please remember the care you received and nominate that provider next year.

As you see our EMS providers out in the community, please thank them for their service. They do a difficult job in an exceptional manner, and deserve our appreciation more than words can express. If you are an EMS provider, again, Thank You for all you do, and I hope you had a wonderful week celebrating your service.