The Somerset-Pulaski County Emergency Medical Service has received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Bronze Plus Award for implementing quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks.

Chief Steven Eubank and Major Nancy Whitis were recognized for the accomplishment at Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting. Eubank said receiving the bronze plus designation not only includes measured performance on chest pain and cardiac patient treatment but stroke care as well.

“This award is the collaborative effort of our great team,” Chief Steven Eubank said. “Without them, we could not do this.”

The department has received the award two years in a row. Whitis said to earn the bronze plus designation, the agency must meet a number of measurable goals when treating a cardiac patient. EMTs must place a heart monitor on any chest pain patient 35 years old and older within 10 minutes. The signal is then transmitted to the hospital and aspirin is administered to the patient. If the EMTs recognize an ST-elevation myocardial infarction — or STEMI — rhythm indicative of a heart attack, they alert Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital and immediately transport the patient there.

Once at the hospital, medical professionals must perform a heart catheterization and put in stints in less than 90 minutes, Whitis said. If the patient is in cardiac arrest, not breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, EMTs resuscitate that patient and then perform a rhythm check to send to the hospital.

The award also commends the department for its focus on early stroke recognition — identifying a potential stroke patient, sending an alert to the hospital and getting the patient to the appropriate facility quickly.

Every year, more than 250,000 people experience STEMI, the deadliest type of heart attack caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by mechanically opening the blocked vessel or by providing clot-busting medication.

The Mission: Lifeline initiative provides tools, training and other resources to support heart attack care following protocols from the most recent evidence-based treatment guidelines. Mission: Lifeline’s EMS recognition program recognizes emergency medical services for their efforts in improving systems of care to rapidly identify suspected heart attack patients, promptly notify the medical center and trigger an early response from the awaiting hospital personnel.

“EMTs and paramedics play a vital part in the system of care for those who have heart attacks,” said Tim Henry, M.D., chair of the Mission: Lifeline Acute Coronary Syndrome Subcommittee. “Since they often are the first medical point of contact, they can save precious minutes of treatment time by activating the emergency response system that alerts hospitals to an incoming heart attack patient. We applaud the Somerset-Pulaski County EMS team for achieving this award in following evidence-based guidelines in the treatment of people who have severe heart attacks.”

Eubank recognized Whitis, who collects and sends this patient data to AHA, for her work to achieve this designation.

“Without her, we would still have met the guidelines but would not have been able to celebrate this success,” he said.