Southside school now doubles as ambulance substation

SOUTHSIDE, AR(KAIT) – Seconds matter when an emergency happens, so to cut down responsetimes, an ambulance service in Batesville has opened a substation outside town.

Where Vital LinkEMS decided to put the substation may seem like an unlikely choice, though.

The ambulancecompany agreed to station two employees at Southside High School to betterserve the southern end of Independence County. Seeing an ambulance outside theschool for the past three weeks, however, has resulted in a few worried phonecalls to the superintendent's office.

"We had a fewquestions on the front end why there was an ambulance located in front of ourschool," Superintendent Roger Rich said. "Now, they've been able to see they'rehere not only during the school, but they're here on the weekends as well."

Rich said peoplehave now welcomed the sight of the ambulance knowing that the high school servesas a substation for Vital Link. This idea came after administrators looked foranother way to partner with the local community.

"We have nurses onour campus that do a great job," Rich said. "We have our health clinic [ARCare]close, too, but these people are trained to handle emergencies in a very quicktime frame. I feel great to have them here, and I feel great for people on thesouthern part of the county that we can take care of them in a very quickresponse time."

Vital Link agreedto open the substation in Southside to better serve the area south of WhiteRiver where about a third of the ambulance calls in Independence Countyoriginate.

"We look atresponse times," said Karen Ryan, the CEO of Vital Link. "That's very importantas far as outcomes on patient well-being and so anything we can do to cut thoseresponse times is huge, and this has allowed us to decrease those times."

In addition to creatingfaster emergency response times, the school hopes the close tie to theambulance service now will open up different educational opportunities forstudents.

"They also willhelp us in our medical professions class that we have here on our campus," Richsaid. "They'll help us as guest instructors in our health classes. Anythinghealth-related, they could be a benefit on our campus to our kids."

Ryan said thisopportunity could serve as an excellent recruiting tool for her company aswell. She said there's a shortage right now of EMTs and paramedics, so shehopes to get more students interested in this particular career field.

"We want to put a face on that term EMT, that term paramedicso that the students can see it is a true profession out there, a veryimportant profession," Ryan said. "If they're interested in it, we would surelytake the opportunity to visit them about the education that's needed and whathappens after that."

Ryan is unsure what might happen to the partnership betweenVital Link and Southside schools in the future, but said everything is workingsmoothly just three weeks into this new arrangement.

"I'm sure we'll adjust and make some changes for the better,"she said. "We want to do good things for the school and for the community, soanything we can do to improve our services, we'll do."

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