August 28, 2014

Medina
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Life Support Team celebrates 35 years

MEDINA TWP. — Recalling its humble beginnings in an empty X-ray room, members of the Medina Life Support Team past and present celebrated the 35th anniversary of the emergency service at Medina Hospital on Friday.

Medina County’s emergency medical services have come a long way since April 4, 1976, when nine paramedics founded LST, Chief Gene Sulzener said.

“We were based in a small X-ray room,” he said. “We managed to crowd nine lockers, three beds and a desk in there, and that was our living quarters 24 hours a day.”

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, right, gives a speech at the Life Support Team's 35th anniversary celebration at Medina Hospital on Friday as doctors, nurses and LST members look on. (LISA HLAVINKA/GAZETTE)

Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, right, gives a speech at the Life Support Team's 35th anniversary celebration at Medina Hospital on Friday as doctors, nurses and LST members look on. (LISA HLAVINKA/GAZETTE)


Eventually, LST was housed in the hospital’s old emergency department. It also provides service from Medina Fire Station 1 at 300 W. Regan Pkwy., and construction on a third location near the Montville Township Hall will be finished by fall.

“Our plan is to staff that according to call volume, and move crew members down there during peak response times,” Sulzener said.

Prior to the formation of LST, ambulatory services were provided by local funeral homes, including Waite Funeral Home, where Darrell Waite’s family acted as ambulance drivers and emergency medical technicians for decades.

By 1976, the funeral home was getting 1,000 calls per year, he said.

“It was too great a workload for our employees,” Waite said. “We were charging $15 per run … it was getting to be expensive.”

The funeral home approached the city to start offering emergency medical services, and residents in Medina city, Medina Township and Montville Township soon passed a 1-mill levy to fund LST.

Waite said paramedics paid $400 for training and certification. It wasn’t uncommon for some LST members to go on runs in their own vehicles.

“There were a lot of volunteer hours that went into this,” he said.

Technology changed, and paramedics’ training increased. Ed Hall, president of the hospital from 1966 to 1993, said the training and coordination of LST with the hospital and other emergency departments renders it one of the “finest in Ohio.”

“To see the level of training and ability of paramedics … it seems like we now take it for granted, and yet the Fire Department and Police Department are also adept at lifesaving until paramedics can arrive,” he said.

Mayor Dennis Hanwell said LST is unique because it coordinates with police and fire services. The Medina police and fire departments go to every EMS call, assessing a medical call before paramedics arrive and offering basic assistance, he said.

“Police can help out without having to send a second LST squad,” he said. “It’s opened up our ability to use our resources effectively.”

LST has 25 full-time and 10 part-time employees. Three ambulances are staffed 24 hours a day, and two others serve as backups, Sulzener said.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.