MCHD commits $14.6 million to several projects

By Meagan Ellsworth | Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 8:57 pm

The Montgomery County Hospital District has made a decision on excess funds and could have another tax cut in the upcoming budget year.

Chief Financial Officer Brett Allen presented a flexible proposal to the Finance and Budget Committee on Tuesday for $14.6 million remaining from a resolved Montgomery County Healthcare fund and money that carried over from last year.

After a discussion and recommendation, the proposal passed in the regular board meeting, which immediately followed the initial meeting at the administration building in Conroe.

The funds are now committed to $7.58 million for uncompensated care, $1,890,760 for capital replacement, $170,583 for capital maintenance and $5 million for catastrophic events.

This allocates the money in the budget to cover future expenses like a patient who can’t afford care, replacing a roof or building, and even a natural disaster like Hurricane Ike.

“The district has outperformed the budget for the last few years so we were able to do this for future obligations,” Allen said. “We collect taxes so we have a duty to tax payers to let them know what this money would be used for, so they know that the money is there for a reason and (used for) good reasons.”

Chairman Harold Posey said MCHD cut the tax rate by 50 percent in the last 10 years, but not the budget because he said the district has assets to tax.

“When you have a bigger amount to put a property tax on, it grows,” Posey said. “We’ve made sure that we were not going to let our budget grow faster than the population.”

In regards to the excess funds, Posey anticipates another tax cut in the next budget year.

“We have been very fortunate to have a good conservative board,” he said. “We are going to cut it again this year. I feel very positive in that direction, I think we will be in the 6.5-cent range on the new budget in April. That right now is the goal of the administrative staff.”

The Deliberation

During the meeting, board member Kenn Fawn said he “strongly opposed” an original suggestion to allocate $4 million to three future telecommunication towers, which he said he could justify to constituents.

Board member Chris Grice supported the inclusion in preparation for county growth and Chairman Harold Posey said argued it was more transparent for constituents than a general fund name like “fund x”.

But Fawn stood his ground, explaining his opinion that it should be set aside for a normal budget process and discussion.

“I’m strongly against against future expenses like ($4 million) for towers,” he said. “Because we have not talked about it and I think it should really be things that we need.”

All ears for a recommendation, Grice asked Fawn for a solution.

“Move it to capital or catastrophic,” he said. “$4 million doesn’t even come close to paying our healthcare.”

At the end of the Finance and Budget Committee meeting discussion, the board made the recommendation to move the $4 million for towers to uncompensated care to bring the total to $7.58 million.

After months of planning, Allen said he is “glad the board took the time for the discussion and to think about how to best use the funds for which (MCHD) is entrusted.”

New MCHD medical director plans route to excellence

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2016 10:43 pm

The Montgomery County Hospital District’s new medical director is taking 190 paramedics and 900 basic EMTs among 15 agencies under his wing.

Dr. Robert Dickson, M.D., FAAEM, FACEP, already has his goals set and is ready to bring his educational and clinical skills to the table.

Since November, he has been moving from New Zealand and getting his feet on the ground at MCHD.

He’s been going on runs with paramedics and making sure what he sees on paper is what he sees in person.

“This is one of the most high-functioning agencies I have ever seen,” Dickson said. “Their protocols are advanced; I find the level of care I’ve seen to be quite high, and so I am very impressed.”

Dickson started his career in the United States Navy after high school then went to college before becoming a Dallas police officer for eight years.

Afterward, he worked at the Dallas Fire Department and had very little interest in being a doctor until he attended and “fell in love” with the paramedic program at UT Southwestern for the fire service.

He credits a “little bit of luck” and the support of the mentors, doctors and paramedics he worked with in Dallas for “ending up in medical school.” While he took the nontraditional route, he believes he is better for it.

“My dad would say I just couldn’t keep a job,” Dickinson said jokingly. “People say it’s an odd circle; but to me, it’s not though. I don’t think I would be half the clinician I am today if I didn’t get there that route.”

As a physician, Dickson practiced in Longview for 10 years after residency in a busy Level II emergency department where he “worked very hard” before he decided it was a time for change.

Then, he chose to take a sabbatical in New Zealand with his family to have a better understanding of different healthcare systems and because a friend from Melbourne who traveled to present international lectures gave him the idea.

“Ah, it’s a beautiful place,” he said. “I think it is very important for doctors who help make (healthcare) decisions and advise our political officials on that policy from time to time to have a really good understanding of what different systems look like. I wanted to go someplace where we had a different healthcare delivery system, where the training systems for younger doctors were going to be different.”

Back in Texas, in Longview, Dickson was involved in medical education, directed the Simulation lab and was the EMS director in Marshal.

“I really enjoyed the teaching aspect of it,” he said. “That was the vast majority of my job in New Zealand was to supervise and teach senior doctors in the emergency department there.”

In October, MCHD EMS Director Jared Cosper spoke highly of MCHD’s selection and said the district wanted a medical director who also could play the role as educator.

It’s a skill Dickson believes he “absolutely” brings to the table. As an academic physician on the Baylor College of Medicine faculty in downtown Houston, he practices clinically at Ben Taub and believes it is important to have educational and clinical experience as medical director.

“I have been on the clinical faculty while in New Zealand and have been publishing some stuff with them,” he said. “I’m very keen on education and teaching. My view is that this is a very difficult business to teach if you haven’t done it.”

At MCHD, Dickson said, the medics see an average of 700 patients a year.

When in Longview, Dickson said, he saw an average of 5,000 patients annually over a 10-year period.

“That’s what I think I bring to it,” he said. “You have to have that kind of experience not only in directing EMS but ultimately what we’re doing is we are asking our medics to go out there and they are caring for these people just like I would in the emergency department if they walked in.”

Dickson’s goals include getting better on clinical excellence by training and adopting new technologies and new therapies as they become available.

“I think we are far above what many agencies are,” he said. “We are going to be very active in research. They’ve had a very active research program here that (former Medical Director Dr. Mark) Escott started and he’s quite well published and I intend to carry that on.”

Heart Ball raises nearly $1 million for AHA

Heart Ball raises nearly $1 million for AHA

Community Report | Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 9:37 pm

The glamour of Hollywood lit up Montgomery County on Saturday at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott.

Over 700 philanthropists, community activists, socialites and business leaders, hit Hollywood Boulevard dressed in their finest for the American Heart Association’s “Hollywood: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” themed Montgomery County Heart Ball.

The event’s co-chairs, Tracy and Richard Wilken, hosted Heart Ball, which focused heavily on the research that funds initiatives like CPR education.

The event, which raised nearly $1 million for the lifesaving funds necessary to fight heart disease and stroke, featured living table girls dressed as famous Hollywood icons Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn, vintage cars and fire trucks, as well as a dance performance by Boni’s Performing Arts & Dance Studio.

Guests got the chance to bid on one-of-a-kind live auction items, including a 19.93 carat Tanzanian Natural Blue Zircon ring surrounded by two rows of 120 brilliant round diamonds that was specifically designed for the AHA by Mark Pharo, an intimate dinner with Dr.Lloyd and Mrs. Jacque Everson at their private wine cellar that hosts over 10,000 bottles of wine, a trip to Vicenza, the “City of Gold,” donated by Donoho’s Jewellers, an opportunity to rub elbows with the Hollywood-elite including William Morris Endeavor, the No.1 entertainment talent agency in the world, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the winning Risi Competizione Race Team at the WeatherTech Lone Star LeMANS Race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, donated by Ferrari of The Woodlands.

It was a night of surprises for the Montgomery County Heart Ball as five first responder groups, including Montgomery County Fire Department, Porter Fire Department, Woodlands Fire Department, Montgomery County Hospital District, and South Montgomery County Fire Department were honored for their lifesaving work in the community.

The night focused heavily on the lifesaving achievements the AHA has made over the past 50 years in CPR and AED education.

Amidst the glitz and glamour of the ball, guests were inspired by the story of Bob Braden, who was saved by the first responders of the Montgomery County Hospital District and the South Montgomery County Fire Station after suffering a cardiac arrest at Legend’s Sports Complex. Without immediate CPR given to him by the Legend’s trainers, first responders wouldn’t have been able to defibrillate his heart and save his life.

Mattress Mack was also honored for his surprise donation of 100 mattresses at the 2015 Montgomery County Heart Ball. Since the summer, volunteers have handmade over 300

heart-shaped “Sweet Dreams” pillows in honor of Mattress Mack. The pillows were donated during this year’s Heart Ball to hospital heads to help heart surgery patients in recovery.

Representatives from Houston Methodist The Woodlands, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, and CHI St. Luke’s The Woodlands were in attendance at the Heart Ball to receive the pillows.

Other guests who attended the event were Ted Oberg, from ABC 13, Tracy and Richard Wilken, Suzanne and Bob Potter, Sherry and Richard Lane, Shirley and Ralph Alexander, Stacey and Steve Bourque, Julie and Joe Tilton, Bibbi and Tom Anderson, Jill and Phil Barber, Dean and Darla Burden, Maryann and Bryce Mannen, and Janet Wong and Ron Mullins.

Live music by RadioLive! had guests hopping on the dance floor until 1 a.m, while Linda McIngvale’s “A Memorable Event,” transformed the Woodlands Waterway Marriott into a Hollywood soiree with deep purple linens, jeweled encrusted centerpieces, and a chandelier entryway lit up for the whole world to see.

Catering was provided by The Woodlands Waterway Marriott.

Cardiac arrest survivor pushes for CPR education, AED access

Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 9:44 pm | Updated: 9:14 am, Thu Feb 25, 2016.

Melissa Machala doesn’t remember dying.

On Sept. 11, 47-year-old Machala went into cardiac arrest four times and was defibrillated 12 times before emergency responders could bring her back to life.

Now she is advocating for CPR education and more public access to AEDs to save others.

That evening, while staying at a pet sitting client’s house in Conroe, Machala recalls having chest pains and shortness of breath.

The first stand-alone ER clinic that Machala went to didn’t treat chest pain, she said.

So she drove to First Choice ER on West Davis Street in Conroe, which had only been open for two weeks.

There, Machala died.

“I told my doctor that my heart didn’t feel right,” said Machala, who is a resident of Montgomery and a retired veterinary technician. “Then, these awesome angels came to save me.”

MCHD EMS paramedic Tammy Welch responded to the scene. She and other first responders happened to be nearby for a BBQ at Conroe Fire Station 5 at the 1600 block of FM 3083.

When Welch arrived, Machala’s son, husband, father and mother were present. They were told Machala was not expected to live.

“I remember their faces,” Welch said. “It took a good hour to get her to stabilize. She went into cardiac arrest for several minutes.”

Welch credits CPR being performed right away and the professional support at the First Choice ER clinic as contributing factors to Machala’s survival.

“I think it was a combination of the early CPR, the care from the free standing clinic, and our continued care (that saved her),” Welch said.

Machala went into cardiac arrest two more times after she arrived at the hospital. When she woke up she had broken ribs and a cracked sternum.

“I had severe chest pain,” Machala said. “I think they ran me over with the truck.”

She remembers being upset.

“I didn’t know I had died,” she said. “There was a big gap in time that I couldn’t wrap my brain around.”

Aside from the initial short-term memory loss, Machala said she has not had any complications since going into cardiac arrest.

“It doesn’t always happen that way,” Welch said.

In honor of February being American Heart Month, Machala joined other female survivors of cardiac arrest and heart disease to GO RED for Women at Market Street in The Woodlands.

She plans to get her certification on March 3 and wants the public to know the importance of learning CPR and knowing where the nearest AED is located.

“I’ve got something to do,” said. “Everything was placed for me to be alive today. Without CPR I absolutely would not be here.”

But first she thanked every emergency responder who rushed to her aid.

“Find your first responder,” Machala said. “I (sought) every one, gave them a hug and thanked the crew from the ambulance and the supervisors.”

Welch is grateful for the gesture.

“We don’t do it for the thank yous,” she said. “We really do appreciate the good outcomes, they’re not always good, so we love to see it. And she’s so young.”

Machala also reminds anybody experiencing symptoms to listen to their body.

“Something told me to get to the ER,” she said. “Don’t ignore it. I typically don’t go, but I listened to my psyche.”


An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart.

Welch said AEDs are currently available in certain public buildings, including schools, law enforcement centers, and malls.

“There should be an AED in every building where people are,” Machala said.

The American Heart Association did not know the specific number of AEDs in Montgomery County.

However, the AHA said the bystander rate, which is the percentage of people who know or/are willing to perform bystander CPR, is only 14.6 percent in Montgomery County, with the national average around 39 percent.

“People would sit there and watch some die before saving their lives,” Machala said. “They are afraid of putting their mouth on someone and don’t realize they don’t have to. They are afraid of getting sued and don’t realize they are protected under the Good Samaritan Act.”

Rene Ramon, the Senior Director of Community Health & Stroke for the American Heart Association, said immediate CPR and early defibrillation with an AED can more than double a victim’s chance of survival.

Ramon said early defibrillation, along with CPR, is the only way to restore the victim’s heart rhythm to normal in a lot of cases of cardiac arrest. For every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, he said, the chances of survival decrease by seven to 10 percent.

“The American Heart Association has found that 23 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are ‘shockable’ arrhythmias, or those that respond to a shock from an AED, making AEDs in public places highly valuable,” he said. “Yet, there are not enough AEDs and persons trained in using them and performing CPR to provide this life-saving treatment, resulting in lost opportunities to save more lives.”

Ramon said 64 percent of Americans have never seen an AED.


MCHD Board considers recision on foundation fund resolution

By Meagan Ellsworth | Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 10:45 pm

The Montgomery County Hospital District Board of Directors has reached a fork in the road.

The Board is discussing what to do with $7.5 million remaining from the $22 million sale of Conroe Regional Medical Center.

In 2006, the Board passed the resolution for the Montgomery County Healthcare Foundation Protection of Funds following Dissolution of the Healthcare Foundation.

This resolution says the fund and the earnings all stay in one place unless the Board has a public hearing on where they be spent for a specific health related program for the indigent residents, according to the hospital’s attorney.

In the past, the funds were used to help oncology patients pay for their bills, but Board member Kenn Fawn said the interest rate was higher at the time and has since dropped. Now that the interest rate has dropped, he said it is no longer as helpful. He also said the hospital has a $60,000 cap on helping a patient before they are referred to somewhere like MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to take over.

Last week, Chief Financial Officer Brett Allen made a presentation about the funds to the Board during the finance committee meeting.

One way the Board is considering using the remaining $7.5 million is for healthcare-related expenses in case of a catastrophe like an epidemic.

“I suggest we get rid of it and we have one fund for catastrophic purposes. I want to have one fund,” said Board Secretary and Commissioner Precinct 1 Sandy Wagner.

Fawn said after the meeting that Wagner’s suggestion is not the general consensus of the Board.

Board Chair Harold Posey had a different opinion.

“I feel like we could have two funds: one catastrophic and one for buildings, tires and equipment,” Posey said.

Earlier in the meeting, Posey said provision three of the resolution says any earnings on this money should be put back in the fund. He said he personally would like to see this fund remain designated as it is today.

“I don’t want to see it in a separate account,” he said. “I don’t see any need for that, but I would like to see maybe an average earning from our TexPool or TexStar (Local Government Investment Pools transferred to/from other MCHD accounts) applied to this fund and get credited with those earnings for the years that it has been there.”

Compounded, he said it would be a sizable amount of money that would build the fund and park it in the reserve that has been a “particular sacred cow among certain people.”

“We are looking for places to put this surplus money we have and I think this is an applicable place and good place to have it and at the same time is reinstalling confidence in the people that are wedded to this fund politically and ideologically,” said Posey, who was a board member of the foundation.

Fawn said the Board has not reached a decision on what to do with the funds, but will be discussing it at future meetings. He encouraged the county to contact the Board members with their input.

“I think it is appropriate that the people in the county express opinion to various Board members,” he said. “If they want it set aside for health care only they need to contact a board member (or) if they feel that is no longer needed…It is still their tax payer dollars (accumulated from the sale of the hospital).”

New CPR device saves first patient

New CPR device saves first patients

New CPR device saves first patients

The Montgomery County Hospital District rolled out its ResQ CPR system pilot program to several fire departments in Montgomery County on Sept. 14.

The system is certified to increase the survival rate of patients that suffer cardiac arrest by 49 percent one year after its use. It does so by adding a suction effect during CPR, as opposed to traditional compression-only CPR, resulting in increases in blood flow during CPR, said Brad Ward, MCHD quality coordinator in the cardiac specialty.

The district is the first in the state, and one of the first 10 districts throughout the U.S., to implement the system, Ward said.

“The easiest way to describe it is as a suction cup with handles on it,” Ward said. “When you do regular CPR, you compress the chest and then you let go—so you are reliant on the chest expanding back. Because of the suction cup, you are also forcing the chest to expand. That allows more blood to flow during CPR.”

As of December, first responders in The Woodlands, South Montgomery County and Porter have used the device on 25 patients, Ward said. The district will consider using the device throughout the county if it continues to see the desired result.

“So far the system is working pretty well for us; we are seeing the results that we expected,” Ward said. “We are looking at it to see if it is working over the long term.”


MCHD sets up tactical support

By Meagan Ellsworth

Montgomery County Hospital District is hoping a new initiative will help out law enforcement.

MCHD is setting up tactical EMS units to support law enforcement starting Jan. 24.

For the last 2.5 years, the paramedics have been training with the sheriff’s office to prepare for the “warm zone” to provide added medical protection to officers, such as in an active shooter scenario.

MCHD EMS Assistant Director Kevin Nutt said EMS teams already respond to active shooter situations in the “cold zone.”

“Operations stayed miles from the actual incident which delayed care for any victims or downed officers,” Nutt said.

Traditionally, he said law enforcement would secure the building and then keep everyone out of the area until there were confirmed secure areas.

“Then at that time we could start treating,” Nutt said. “Now they can be much closer to where the incident is and the victims.”

No additional personnel are being hired or put on the streets.

Instead, Nutt said paramedics who expressed an interest when talks initially began have been training 16 hours every month for the last 2.5 years to be physically and professionally prepared by MCSO.

There will be three shifts, two paramedics per shift, and a dedicated truck that went through the tested process, he said. The only cost will be for training at this time.

MCHD CEO Randy Johnson said an already existing ambulance at Station 10, located on the east side of Conroe, will be used to provide medical support to SWAT teams.

“If there is ever any kind of disaster out there it is close to the Sheriff’s department as well as the airport,” Johnson said.

While pursuing their goal, Nutt said MCHD has been building its relationship with the MCSO.

“It’s a good partnership,” Nutt said. “It’s a benefit to the county for sure. … with the elevated threats there’s been multiple active shooter scenarios across the country. We felt it was important to have medical resources that were close to the action … We’re excited to see it finally take form and we are ready for it.”

New Alarm System

Johnson said MCHD is also replacing the station alerting system for $1.5 million.

“That’s the buttons and buzzers that go off in the station to let people know we have a call,” he said.

Because the stations are located all over the county, he said MCHD has different capabilities of the Internet and radio tower strength in different areas.

“We’ve had problems with our station alerting, so we are getting a new station alerting system,” he said.

The system is currently being tested and is going to cost MCHD about $1.5 million.

“We’ve been testing the station alerting system at two of our stations and it seems to be going very well, so we are redoing all 23 of our stations. Our plan is to finish that by the end of the year,” Johnson said.

Porter Fire Department, MCHD recognized for outstanding service


On Monday, Jan. 11, the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council (SETRAC) hosted their first ever awards banquet to recognize outstanding services in the Region.

SETRAC is a coalition of hospitals, air medical providers, fire departments and emergency medical services in the southeast Texas region who provide stakeholder support for preparedness, trauma, injury prevention, stroke, cardiac and pediatric services.

At this banquet, the Montgomery County Hospital District and Porter Fire Department were presented with the Multi-Agency/ First Responder Team Award for their combined efforts in saving the life of a patient who sustained life threatening injuries while trimming a tree.

The patient fell and became pinned in the tree by his broken leg. The rapid response and quick thinking of the crew of Porter Fire Department and MCHD greatly contributed to the patient’s survival.

The crews had to make the tough decision to amputate the part of the leg that kept the patient dangling in the tree. Amputation of limbs is not a task typically performed by paramedics much less on a patient entrapped 25 feet in a tree.

SETRAC honored the crews for their extraordinary performance. They would like to commend Travis Clay, Hayden Rampy and Erik Richenberger of Montgomery County Hospital District and Howard Rinewalt, Natalie Landvogt, Timothy Carrithers, Cody Pope, Kenneth Joffrion, Anthony Hayes and Toby Stripling of Porter Fire Department for their outstanding work.SETRAC PIC


MCHD purchases $1.3 million order of self-loading stretchers for paramedics

By Meagan Ellsworth | Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2016 9:22 pm

MCHD purchases $1.3 million order of self-loading stretchers for paramedics

One of the main reasons the Montgomery County Hospital District is outfitting its ambulances with self-loading stretchers is to improve the health of EMS workers, who have to lift patient, gear and stretcher several times in their 24-hour shift. In addition to both hydraulic and manual controls, the stretcher also has a guide track to better stabilize patients once in the vehicle.

Montgomery County Hospital District paramedic Emily Pruitt responds to between eight and 10 calls every 24-hour shift.

From the scene to the hospital, the 15-year veteran lifts an average of 125 to 220 lbs. about four times per patient as she transfers them in and out of the ambulance.

By the time she goes home to her family, her body has paid the price. She is aching, tired, and like many of her colleagues she suffers from back pain. However, a new $1.3 million upgrade aims to alleviate that pain.

For the last six months Pruitt and her EMS team has been testing out a new self-loading stretcher manufactured by Stryker — a company MCHD has purchased patient movement devices from for years.

MCHD ordered 36 self-loading stretchers, which will be installed in all 34 ambulances and received in early February.

How it works

Once pre-existing airbags lower the ambulance, Pruitt presses a release latch and pulls back on the stretcher, away from the truck and towards her body.

The stretcher is magnetically attached on top of a rod inside the bed of the ambulance.

She pulls the stretcher out of the truck until the rod is fully extended and then presses a red button with an arrow that hydraulically lowers the stretcher’s stand.

Once stable, she presses another, smaller red button releasing the end of the stretcher that’s closest to the ambulance from the rod and then rolls the stretcher and patient away.

When she is ready to load a patient into the ambulance, it is a similar process. Once she pushes the stretcher on the rod, a green light signifies it has successfully attached.

She then pushes a red up arrow to raise the stand and glides the stretcher on the rod into the ambulance.

The sides of the stretcher can accommodate wider patients and the stretcher overall has a weight limit of 700 lbs. Although, the heaviest patient the team has responded to was a 25-year-old who weighed 827 lbs.

Pros and Cons

The self-loading stretcher is effortless in comparison to manually dead-lifting patients on the other stretcher, but there are times when the team has to “trouble shoot,” such as when it gets stuck on the rod.

EMS Director Jared Cosper plans to have peer-level training to ensure the paramedics as well as the fire departments are prepared to utilize the new equipment.

The training will also guide paramedics on how to address “trouble shooting” issues and to prevent them from occurring.

“We have had one time that I know of in particular where it got hung up and they (the paramedics) weren’t sure what to do,” Cosper said. “It’s basically a training fix. Since then we have learned from the manufacturer, we’ve learned from use.”

Pruitt and her colleagues said there is a manual override option and that it has only happened about two times in the six months she has been using the self-loading stretchers.

“You learn what happens and how to fix it very quickly,” Pruitt said. “It will catch every now and then but it is not something that we can’t figure out pretty quickly. You can manually do pretty much everything on there that is electronic. It’s nothing that slows down the process.”

Cosper said Stryker’s self-loading stretcher is also the only one stretcher that is crash tested and made to stay attached during the case of a rollover.

Paramedic Approved

MCHD EMS paramedic and supervisor Chris Goodrich has served for 18 years and said he likes the new stretchers.

“It decreases injuries and makes things easier to get patients in and out,” he said.

Cosper said MCHD was slow to purchase the self-loading stretcher as it had already been out and purchased by other EMS teams about a year before MCHD decided to purchase.

“It’s a lot of money,” Cosper said. “We wanted to make sure people tried it before we (purchased it).”

While there is another company that makes the stretchers, he said he chose to go with Stryker because it allowed a year-long trial to test the equipment.

At first, some of the veteran paramedics were skeptical, said Charles Sandoval, who has been a paramedic for 14 years.

“(There were some) who were originally distrusting,” Sandoval said. “(At first I was apprehensive), but then I found out it works, it’s safe, and it’s good for me.”

He said the $1.3 million upgrade helps make the paramedic’s job “easier and more efficient” and is “not taken for granted.”

“We have the background to say we know what it’s like to have to physically do things, so to have an upgrade like this is appreciated,” Sandoval said. “People will hear that $1.3 million and say, ‘Oh my god, you have all this money.’ No, stop, wait a minute. Understand the toll it takes on a human body over time.”

Like Pruitt, Sandoval appreciates the purchase for the paramedics’ professional and personal lives.

“Ultimately, we still have families and we’d like to enjoy some off time with them and not be in constant pain and discomfort.”



Area hospitals wait on level II designation – Conroe Courier

Area hospitals wait on level II trauma designation – Conroe Courier



Conroe Regional Medical Center and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands are closer to obtaining level II trauma designation by the American College of Surgeons with final verification visits next year.

The ACS rank means trauma patients can be transported and seen by the two hospitals instead of making 30 minute to hour long trips to Downtown Houston or Galveston.

Both hospitals have already made preparations for the possible promotion in designation.

Between the recruitment and resources needed to prepare the facilities for the right specialties to provide the right care, both hospitals said it requires a lot of time, focus, and energy with a great amount of investment and support.

Conroe Regional Medical Center

Conroe Regional Medical Center has been a level III trauma facility since 2010, but a couple years ago began taking the steps to be designated as a level II trauma facility.

CRMC began acting as a level two II in December of last year and will be evaluated by the ACS for final verification in July.

Since December, CRMC has made several major changes.

For one, general and trauma surgeons now stay in the building and are available at bed side to severely injured trauma patients within 15 minutes.

At level III status, the surgeons have 30 minutes to see patients and don’t have to stay in the building.

“Technically at level II you don’t have to stay in the building, but we do,” CRMC Medical Director Dr. Charlie Dendy said.

Dendy also said CRMC now has anesthesia in the building 24/7, while at level III the option just needed to be within 30 minutes of the hospital.

An operating crew and room is available 24/7 as well, which also only had a 30-minute response time requirement at level III.

Aside from those upgrades, on Dec. 1, CRMC contracted out with Advent Orthopaedics, which is a trauma orthopaedic group based out of Waco that now covers CRMC around the clock.

“They have guys based here,” Dendy said. “There are going to be three of them based here We have two right now. They are all fellowship-trained trauma orthopaedic surgeons.”

At level III, CRMC had community orthopaedic surgeons that had not done a trauma fellowship and were covering the hospital.

“If it was a very complex orthopaedic injury, we would stabilize them and ship them downtown (to level I facilities in Houston or Galveston) for the trauma fellowship doctor to evaluate and treat,” Dendy said. “Now we don’t have to do that.”

Other updated coverages include ophthalmology 24/7, as well as upped neurosurgery coverage, and the addition of plastic surgery and facial trauma coverage that started last year.

“Basically, besides burns and pediatrics, we are now the equivalent to any of the trauma centers downtown for trauma patients,” Dendy said.

CRMC already sees patients from as far away as Walker and Polk counties and the new designation will expand the service area.

“We’ve probably doubled our numbers in a year,” Dendy said.

CRH Assistant Medical Director Kenneth Helmer said the designations potential to reduce downtown transportations will help increase the chances of survival by being able to address injuries, such as bleeding, before more complications arise.

“We always talk about the golden hour in trauma,” Helmer said. “If you can get to a high-level trauma center within an hour, your survival chances dramatically increases. I think that plays true still, and obviously if you can get here in 15 minutes that’s even better.”


CRMC noted the importance of the hospital’s relationship with the Montgomery County Hospital District EMS teams.

MCHD EMS Director Jared Cosper said that for a trauma center to become accredited it requires the center to maintain a good dialogue with their EMS system to ensure the care for trauma patients is appropriate and consistent.

Cosper said MCHD EMS meets regularly with both Memorial Hermann The Woodlands and Conroe Regional Medical Center to develop criteria and treatment plans that are supported across the entire county.

“MCHD has enjoyed a strong partnership with both of these facilities and we are proud to work with them to improve access to the best medical care,” he said. “These facilities offering level II trauma care is a very important milestone as we continue to improve the services offered locally to match the growth within Montgomery County.”

Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital

CEO Josh Urban said Memorial Hermann The Woodlands advancement to level II trauma started almost two years ago.

The hospital has been acting, operating, and designated as a level III since 2009.

Several years ago, Urban said the hospital started recognizing the need for higher level trauma centers in Montgomery County and even some of our surrounding counties.

“Most people recognize that the greater-Houston area is very under served from a major trauma center perspective,” Urban said. “There is an old rule of thumb that there should be a major trauma center for every one million people of population, the greater Houston area is six-plus million people of population, and we only have two major trauma centers and those are Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center and Ben Taub at Harris Health facility right next door.

“So the greater Houston area is certainly under served from a major trauma perspective and there are no designated major trauma centers (level I or II) up here today in Montgomery County serving south/north Montgomery County and Walker County.”

Since the initial investigation into the ACS requirements to become a level II designated trauma facility, the hospital has been executing plans and invested millions of dollars to realize the vision.

Urban said one the key things the hospital focused on was physician recruitment to elevate the trauma program with the right team.

By July 2015, critical care surgeons were recruited and made available 24 hours a day to take calls inside instead of outside the facility.

Also recruiting and engaging the right specialties, the facility upgraded neurosurgery, ophthalmology, and all the disciplines needed to become a major trauma center.

Urban said the hospital already has a large medical staff and there will be a combination of physicians who were already interested in trauma working with at least 20 recruited physicians.

Aside from the physician component, Urban said there have been nursing and staff educational sessions.

He also said the 294 bed hospital will be opening additional capacity in June 2016, making it a 350 bed facility.

Urban said the hospital anticipates the ACS verification visit by the end of 2016.