For the last 37 years Medical Rescue Team South Authority (MRTSA), headquartered on Cypress Way near the intersection of Scott Road and Castle Shannon Boulevard, has meant fast, reliable ambulance service for medical emergencies and accidents in Mt. Lebanon as well as in Baldwin Township, Castle Shannon, Dormont, Green Tree and Whitehall.
MRTSA has seven ambulances, a quick response vehicle and an F-350 utility vehicle. Four ambulances were recently updated. The box was recycled and placed on new four-wheel drive chassis, a savings of $25,000 to $30,000 per truck over purchasing new ambulances. Four-wheel drive will help MRTSA respond in snow events. New reflective graphics will make the ambulances more visible at night. “You can’t miss them,” says MRTSA Director Todd Pritchard.
All vehicles are equipped with state-of-the-art pre-hospital technology, including Lifepak heart monitors and computer-aided dispatch systems that tie them into the Allegheny County 911, providing medics with updates and information that cannot be broadcast. All vehicles also have iPads, which can be used for research, such as looking up a patient’s medication, or to complete patient reports. The iPads are loaded with apps that patients can use while being transported—games for kids, music for seniors—a wonderful distraction for those in pain.
In addition to Pritchard and Assistant Director John Moses, MRTSA has three shift supervisors, 16 full-time and 12 part-time paramedics, nine full-time and seven part-time emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and 12 volunteers.
Some people use the terms “paramedic” and “EMT” interchangeably, but there is a difference. EMTs can perform first aid and CPR (basic life support) on patients, but they are not trained to administer drugs and IVs or perform cardiac monitoring (advanced life support) as paramedics can. EMTs have 150 to 200 hours of training, while paramedics have 1,200 to 1,500 hours. Volunteers are certified EMTs and can handle most minor emergencies from broken bones to lacerations, freeing up the paramedics for advanced life support calls.
But MRTSA’s calls aren’t all heart attacks and broken bones. Other emergency services MRTSA offer are:
On-site rehabilitation for first responders. Heart attacks are the leading cause of on-duty deaths to firefighters, and overexertion and stress are contributing factors. MRTSA accompanies firefighters to major fire calls and provides shade (thanks to two 12-by-12-foot tents), water, chairs, misting fans and devices to monitor vital signs. The rehab center truck carries mass casualty items, so paramedics can work on 10 or more patients.
Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) Two MRTSA paramedics (along with two paramedics from other South Hills ambulance services) serve on the South Hills Area Council of Government’s CIRT. The team accompanies police officers to potentially volatile calls so medical attention is available immediately if an officer is hurt.
Technical Response Team Four paramedics certified in high angle, trench and confined space rescues serve on SHACOG’s Technical Response Team, which responds to calls in Mt. Lebanon and 17 other communities.
Hazardous Materials Medical Response Team MRTSA staff provides medical assistance to hazardous waste removal teams throughout Allegheny County. MRTSA paramedic Jesse Seifert serves as the county team’s assistant chief.
Five paramedics are certified bike medics and have attended the International Police Mountain Bike Association to learn how to ride down stairs, negotiate crowds and balance 20 to 30 pounds of equipment. Their bikes are equipped with lights and sirens. The bike paramedics patrol at events like Martha’s Run and ULTRAparty.
MRTSA hosts classes for the public, businesses and organizations. The classes, taught by instructors certified by the American Heart Association, include Heart Saver First Aid, Adult/Child/Infant CPR, Healthcare Provider CPR and first aid. For information, go to www.mrtsa.com. MRTSA is an American Heart Association training site that local organizations use to educate staff (Mt. Lebanon requires municipal employees to be recertified in CPR every two years.) MRTSA also offers paramedic and EMT training. Many EMTs who attended these classes are now MRTSA volunteers.
Car Seat Safety
MRTSA has six certified car seat techs who provide recommendations for child safety seats and teach people how to install them properly. Schedule an
appointment at 412-343-5111.
Staffed MRTSA ambulances stand by at about 300 events annually. Football games are the most common request, but medics also stand by at other large school events such as band festivals or cheerleading competitions, and at community fun runs, carnivals, special events and senior fairs. Injuries commonly treated involve heat emergencies, strains, sprains and breaks.
MRTSA representatives speak to schools, businesses, church groups and other community organizations on topics such as safety for seniors, dog awareness, lost child prevention, and risky behavior in teens. Schedule a program 412-343-5111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MRTSA services and programs do not come without cost, and MRTSA relies on subscriptions, third party payments, direct payments, grants and annual payments from participating municipalities based on population and call volume. Mt. Lebanon, the largest participating municipality with a population of more than 33,000, also has the largest call volume—of the 9,000 plus calls MRTSA responded to in 2011, about 4,400 were from Mt. Lebanon. Last year, the authority received $176,000 from Mt. Lebanon to maintain and improve services. Every community in the MRTSA system has representatives on the board; Mt. Lebanon’s are Commissioners David Brumfield and Kelly Fraasch. “We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our communities,” Pritchard says.
In October, MRTSA will hold its annual subscription drive. Letters soliciting membership are mailed to houses in all participating communities. When you subscribe, you help ensure MRTSA can maintain and expand its programs and continue high-level staff training. It also means you will get free ambulance service, whether or not your insurance covers it (and uninsured non-subscribers could pay up to $900 for transport). Of course, you don’t have to be a subscriber to get an ambulance—MRTSA will send one regardless of whether you subscribe. A household subscription also covers family members and visitors.