Hennepin EMS is an Urban/Suburban 9-1-1 Emergency Medical Services agency that handles approximately 60,000 calls for service each year from the citizens and visitors of Hennepin County, Minnesota. We are based at Hennepin County Medical Center and serve 14 municipalities, covering 266 square miles and a population of over 700,000.
Hennepin EMS deploys ambulances throughout the communities we serve, utilizing an integrated Computer Aided Dispatch system that incorporates Automatic Vehicle Location and Global Positioning Satellites to ensure the closest available ambulance is sent to all emergencies.
Our goal is to deliver quality service to our customers with a courteous and immediate response while modeling the highest standard for excellence in public safety.
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2013 EMS Operations in Review-Infographic
Brandon Skalberg was unlucky to strike a deer while driving a motorcycle during a clear June 6 afternoon along a county road in Ellsworth Township. But the 24-year-old Dassel resident was fortunate in that seven paramedics were training at the Meeker County Law Enforcement Center when the crash happened.
The group heard the emergency call on a radio, and the leader of the paramedic group, Meeker County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffery Ho, interrupted the training session to ask for volunteers. Two people, Kris Ehlert and Alvin Sangma, headed to the scene, while Ho went to the emergency dispatchers’ office to advise them.
Several other emergency workers also responded to the scene, including from Litchfield Rescue Squad and Fire Department and Gold Cross Ambulance. Ho said having Ehlert and Sangma there likely made a difference in saving Skalberg, who suffered a head injury and was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center by Life Link helicopter.
Both Ehlert and Sangma work for Hennepin County Medical Center and have extra experience responding to motorcycle crashes in the metro area, said Ho, who is also a full-time medical doctor at Hennepin Medical Center.
Ho and Sheriff Jeff Norlin highlighted the incident as an example of how the program, started last year, has provided tangible benefits with little cost to taxpayers. Norlin and Ho devised the program nearly three years ago in the midst of an economic recession. It was originally intended to target college graduates seeking to gain some experience and beef up their resumes. But, so far, the all-volunteer group consists of established professionals, several of whom work at Hennepin County Medical Center.
“I can’t guarantee the timing of having these folks on because they’re volunteers, but I’ll take whatever I can get,” Norlin said, noting the group has logged in more than 500 hours since starting last year.
For Skalberg, he picked a good time to get into a serious wreck. “If somebody’s badly injured, this is exactly how you want it to play out,” Ho said.
While working with dispatchers at the Law Enforcement Center, Ho made the call to send to the scene a Life Link helicopter from Willmar, even before Ho fully understood the scope of Skalberg’s injuries. If the injuries turned out to be minor, the helicopter would head back to Willmar. But if Skalberg had a serious injury, sending for the helicopter early would give him a head start on getting treatment.
The big question was whether Skalberg had suffered head trauma. “With a head injury, treatment needs to be very fast and definitive,” Sangma said.
Skalberg, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, was acting combative, a common symptom of a head injury, according to Ho and Sangma. Handcuffs were needed to subdue him because of the potential for Skalberg inflicting further harm to himself. His combativeness, coupled with evidence of Skalberg hitting his head on pavement, indicated his injury was severe enough to warrant the use of a Life Link helicopter, Ho said.
The next question was where to send Skalberg. He could have been sent to Meeker Memorial Hospital, but this would risk an unnecessary step if Skalberg ultimately required treatment at a larger medical facility. Flying him directly to Hennepin County Medical Center made the most sense, Ho said, and it would also allow his staff to follow up on Skalberg’s condition once Skalberg left the scene in Ellsworth Township.
Last week, Skalberg’s case was featured during a weekly conference meeting at Hennepin County Medical Center, Ho said. The case served as “textbook example” of how to handle this type of medical emergency, while also putting a positive spotlight on Meeker County’s program, known officially as Meeker County Community Service Officer Paramedics, or CSO-P. The patrol car used for the program carries special equipment and is marked to indicate the program is carried out in partnership with Hennepin County Medical Center.
Skalberg returned home June 12, six days after the crash. Along with head trauma, including an inner ear injury, he suffered a broken collar bone and shoulder blade. “It’s going to take time,” his mother, Kathy Skalberg said about her son’s recovery.
But given the severity of the crash, his prognosis is good. “He’s just lucky,” Kathy added. “Somebody was watching over him.”
Hennepin EMS is featured in Stryker's "EMS-Unscripted" video series. EMS Supervisor Chad Dotzler talks about the risks of repetitive trauma due to lifting, the risk to patients and providers in the event of a crash; and how we and Stryker's EMS products work to mitigate the danger to our field providers.
Welcome home to Hennepin EMS Manager Chris Kummer and the rest of the team members that assisted in Massachusetts and New York during the Hurricane Sandy response.
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Minneapolis, MN 55415
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