For those who may have the unfortunate experience of a heart attack or stroke, Burke County is the best place to be, say EMS officials.

Burke County Emergency Medical Services Director Greg Curry recognized his department staff during the county commissioners meeting this week after being awarded, again, with the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline EMS Gold Plus Award, which is the highest honor given, he said.

This is the second year that Burke County EMS has received the award for implementing quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks, according to the county. While it’s the second year of it receiving the Gold Plus Award, it’s the third year of receiving an award, with the first year being a silver award, said Sgt. Nikki Carswell.

During the meeting Curry recognized EMS employees Capt. Jimmy Winters, Lt. David Cable, Sgt. Dylan Hudson, Carswell, Paramedic Brian Jawish and Paramedic Hailey Deal, saying the award is a testament to the hard work of the EMS staff who didn’t just sit on their laurels after receiving the award last year.

Sgt. Carswell said the American Heart Association’s program dedicated to the recognition of excellent pre-hospital cardiac care is the Mission: Lifeline. She is in charge of cardiac care data for the department and told commissioners that it is mostly concentrated in the areas of heart attack, cardiac arrest and stroke care. She said all of Burke’s cardiac and stroke care patients are taken directly to Frye Regional Medical Center. Sgt. Carswell said the department consistently has the highest numbers every month, outranking and out-performing the surrounding counties when it comes to cardiac care and the Burke EMS workers have the longest drive-time of the surrounding counties. Time is important when it comes to heart attacks and strokes because they want to be able to preserve as much healthy heart tissue as possible, Carswell said.

The department has to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, confirm that with an EKG, notify Burke communications, which has to notify Frye Regional hospital, which has to page their cardiac team and that team then has to acknowledge the page, all within 10 minutes, she said. That is about 30 different people who have to do their job in succession, Carswell said.

She said the department workers hit that metric more than 87 percent of the time, and they’re only one component of the metric, she said.

Carswell said greater than 75 percent of the time, from the time a patient sees an EMS worker to the time their heart catheterization at Frye Regional is complete, has to be 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes).

She said the department has had two patients in the Longtown area of Burke County within the last year where they recognized a heart attack, got them to Frye Regional — 43 miles — and got a heart catheterization completed in less than 90 minutes. She said getting a patient care so quickly keeps their baseline life status so they can be back home within about two days, and back to normal functioning within about two weeks.

“We are the best in the area at what we do,” Carswell told the commissioners.

In other business, commissioners:

» Approved awarding a bid to Locke-Lane Construction Inc. for the Eckard Creek Pump Station rehab project that will replace the pumps and equipment at the Eckard Creek sewer pump station in Icard. The project also includes around 7,600 feet of 12-inch force main pipe that connects the pump station to the gravity sewer system, and approved $67,205 in appropriation of water and sewer retained earnings.

» Approved the purchase of a John Deere 750K Dozer for landfill from James River Equipment for $266,443.13.

» Approved a bid/contract to Brooks Networking Service for $252,167.72 and authorized the county manager to execute the agreement on behalf of the board.

» Approved appointments or reappointments to Animal Advisory Board, with Veterinarian Dr. Linda Schilkowsky being re-appointed to seat No. 2, at-large pet owner Debbie Hawkins being appointed to seat No. 4 and Gwen Stephens, representing rescues or foster agencies, being appointed to seat No. 6.

» Approved its consent agenda that included the purchase of Fonta FloraTrail easements; Lease of property at 302-D South Center Street in Hildebran; Conditions of employment policy addition; and Proposed amendment to the personnel policy on resignations.

Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached or at 828-432-8946.

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