Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center is launching a first-of-its-kind critical care ambulance to transfer stroke and cardiac patients from community hospital emergency rooms to the hospital’s specialists.

“This is the first of its kind throughout the entire valley,” said Daniel Eisenberg, M.D., chief of cardiology at Providence Saint Joseph. “It allows patients to be transferred from urgent care centers or community hospitals that do not have the facilities to treat stroke and very critical heart conditions. We’re there within moments, any time of day or night and treatment begins on the way to our hospital.”

The critical care transport program is supported by a grant from the UniHealth Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization whose mission is to support and facilitate activities that improve health care in its communities. The grant helped cover the costs of training the program’s supervisor and the nurses that will ride in the transport.

The transport is being provided by Bowers Emergency Services, which contracts with Providence Health & Services, Southern California, for ambulance service. This is the second Bowers ambulance dedicated to a specialty at Providence. A pediatric ambulance serves Providence Tarzana Medical Center, transporting children and infants in kid-friendly style, and with room for a parent and physician to ride along.

The new service will have one nurse on board at all times to pick up stroke and heart patients. Having a nurse aboard raises the level of care to a patient in transit and allows for much broader access to equipment and medications during critical minutes, Providence officials said.

“People don’t realize that hospitals have different levels of expertise, and this program provides access to time sensitive interventions regardless of where patients are initially taken for treatment in our community,” Debbie Buffham, R.N., supervisor of the new Critical Care Transport Team said in a prepared statement.

Many community hospitals do not have the specialized services to best treat stroke and cardiac patients. Several have contracted with Providence Saint Joseph to transport and treat patients who arrive in their emergency departments.

The transport service will ensure that these patients arrive to Providence in a timely manner and that patients don’t lose precious minutes, and even hours, as hospital staff make phone calls to coordinate critical transports to medical centers.

Judy Temes