Boyle’s heart attack survival rate must be fixed

THE ADVOCATE-MESSENGER

Editorial Opinion

Earlier this month, Dr. Eric Guerrant had some depressing statistics to share with Danville City Commission: Only 3.7 percent of people in Boyle County who suffered a cardiac arrest outside a hospital in 2016 survived — and 0 percent survived in 2015.

The national average of just 12 percent is already bad enough. Boyle’s percentage is simply not acceptable.

A community with a regional hospital and a large number of medical providers ought to be above-average — not dead last — in this statistic. It’s even more concerning given Danville’s large and growing population of retirees, who may be more prone to suffering heart attacks.

Research done for the current strategic economic development plan effort has shown the number of people ages 55 and older has skyrocketed since 2000, while most other age divisions have seen declines in population.

Boyle County is becoming a hub for retirement, in part because of the high quality of life available for low cost. We have a relatively cheap cost of living compared to bigger cities, but we still have many of the things — shopping, industry, entertainment, arts — that you usually only find in bigger cities.

But our cardiac arrest survival rate remains a black mark on that otherwise impressive quality of life report card.

Fixing this requires three letters: CPR.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can greatly increase the chances of someone surviving after they stop breathing on their own, and it helps prevent brain damage from occurring.

We need more people to learn how to administer CPR, and we also need “emergency medical dispatch” to be available through the local 911 dispatch center. In short, such a service would make it possible for 911 to instruct callers who don’t know how to administer CPR on the basics.

But EMD wouldn’t just provide for CPR or help in cases of cardiac arrest; it would make it possible for dispatchers to help callers immediately in a wide variety of situations, improving outcomes of medical emergencies across the board. And it would create an open channel of communication from caller to dispatcher to first responder, meaning fire, police and EMS personnel would already know what has happened and what needs to be done as soon as they get on the scene. Hospital staff could similarly be kept in the loop, enabling them to be prepared for incoming patients ahead of time, as well.

This isn’t cutting-edge technology that no one else has yet — Boyle is behind the curve. EMD is already available to 911 callers in many areas surrounding Boyle County. Our local dispatchers are largely limited to simply getting the basics and sending emergency responders to the scene to investigate.

Adding EMD to the current setup will cost in the neighborhood of $250,000 per year, according to Dr. Guerrant and Danville officials. It could be $300,000 the first year in order to cover startup costs. That cost is mostly for salaries for additional dispatchers, making it possible for one dispatcher to be dedicated to an emergency call for its duration.

That $250,000 only sounds like a lot if it’s viewed as an upgrade or a luxury — it shouldn’t be thought of as either.

EMD is an essential service, just like patrol cars for police and turnout gear for firefighters. If there were people dying because we underfunded our police or fire services, it would be considered a travesty. This is no different. People have died — and more will die — as long as we continue underfunding our 911 service.

Governmental leaders are working on this already. It’s possible in the near future that Boyle County and Danville will work out a funding arrangement to pay for EMD.

There’s some level of disagreement between the city and county concerning how 911 is funded and how it should be funded in the future. But you can be sure those issues will be sorted out quickly if voters create enough pressure.

We think residents like you should encourage your elected leaders to take action on this, work out their differences and implement EMD as soon as possible.

Boyle County magistrates are Dickie Mayes (first district), Donnie Coffman (second district), Phil Sammons (third district), Jack Hendricks (fourth district), Patty Burke (fifth district) and John Caywood (sixth district). Boyle County’s judge-executive is Harold McKinney. Danville city commissioners are J.H. Atkins, Denise Terry, Kevin Caudill and Rick Serres. Danville’s mayor is Mike Perros. 

Call these elected officials if you have their numbers, hit them up on Facebook, visit them if you know where they work. Or call the Boyle County Fiscal Court at (859) 238-1100 or Danville City Hall at (859) 238-1200. And write letters to the editor and submit them for publication — your elected officials read this newspaper. Letters can be mailed or hand-delivered to The Advocate-Messenger, 330 S. Fourth St., Danville, KY 40422; or emailed to letters@amnews.com (you’ll find our full letters policy at the bottom of each opinion page).

EMD cannot come to Boyle County fast enough. We hope you will join us in pushing to make it a reality before any more people die unnecessarily.