By Gary Mitchell
Heart attack victims in rural eastern New Mexico will have greater access to medical attention, thanks to a recent $251,709 grant from the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Rural Health Policy.
The grant — for the placement of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in rural areas of the state — was awarded to the New Mexico Department of Health, Public Health Division, Injury Prevention and Emergency Medical Services Bureau.
According to Donnie Roberts, training coordinator of the Eastern New Mexico Emergency Medical Services Corp., Region III, sudden cardiac arrest affects about 350,000 people in the nation each year.
Approximately 75 percent of these victims experience ventricular fibrillation, a condition in which the heart “quivers.”
“Time is of the essence in treating these victims because the vital organs of the body begin to die after about four minutes,” Roberts said. “Defibrillation is the only definitive treatment to return a fibrillating heart to a normal rhythm.”
“The goal of the grant is to save lives by improving access to AEDs and reducing the time until victims of sudden cardiac arrest can be defibrillated,” said Jan Elliott, executive director of EMS, Region III, in Clovis.
The Region III area includes 12 counties on the eastern side of the state. It has been selected as the statewide administrator of the defibrillator program, Elliot said.
“There have been 56 AEDs placed throughout New Mexico, and, the HRSA grant was also used to provide defibrillator training to over 500 New Mexicans,” she said.
Karen Burns, fire prevention and safety officer for the Clovis Fire Department, said she and her department provided defibrillator training for area departments and individuals because of the grant.
“We did training at Causey Community Center, at the Grady Senior Citizens Center, with the Curry County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Rosa Police Department,” she said. “We were contacted by EMS Region III and we trained people on how to do the AED at their request.”
The Rural Access to Emergency Devices Grant applicants included: EMS services, fire services, law enforcement, health centers/hospitals, cities, counties, municipalities and other public access defibrillation (PAD) entities, Elliott said.
“Grady is putting theirs in the senior citizens center,” Burns said. “Santa Rosa will put them in its police vehicles, and the Curry County Sheriff’s Office will put them in their law enforcement vehicles. At Causey, we put them in the community center and the fire department.”
Elliot said 22 entities in EMS Region III received defibrillators and training.
Those entities included: Curry County Sheriff’s Office; village of Grady; village of Causey; House Fire Department; Santa Rosa Ambulance; Santa Rosa Police Department; Nor-Lea Hospital; Bonita State Park; EMS Region III; James Canyon Volunteer Fire Department; Timberon EMS; Malaga Fire Department; Mescalero Fire Department; Harding County Regional Flood Control District No. 2; Lovington City Hall; Lovington Senior Citizens Center; Sacramento Methodist Assembly; Health Centers of Northern New Mexico; Health Centers of NNM-Roy; Lake Arthur Police Department; Roswell Home Depot; and Lea County Sheriff’s Office.
The state IPEMS Bureau also has been notified it was awarded a second-round of funding for approximately $240,000 for fiscal year 2004.
Any rural EMS service, law enforcement agency, fire department, health clinic, religious organization, business or entity interested in applying is encouraged to contact Melinda Shaw, EMS Region III, at 769-2639.