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Wake EMS adding souped-up cars, more highly trained medics

Souped-up Dodge Chargers will have higher-trained paramedics in them to get help to calls faster and to bolster the ambulance fleet by cutting the number dispatched to some calls.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County's Emergency Medical Services Department is adding several souped-up Dodge Chargers as part of a new program designed to bolster its ambulance fleet at the same time it deploys more highly trained paramedics to drive them and to make ambulance use more efficient.

The county announced Monday that the new group, known as advanced practice paramedics, will be dispatched in the cars to help treat the most acute patients and prevent emergencies in high-risk patient populations such as the elderly.

Previously, the paramedics rode only in ambulances.

Orange County also has begun to issue the Chargers, which are being used by the Highway Patrol and several local police departments in recent years, to paramedics.

The new muscle cars offer both speed and trunk space for paramedics to respond quickly to emergencies, potentially stabilizing patients until an ambulance arrives. Officials say the cars also get far better gas mileage than ambulances.

In the past, dispatchers sometimes used two ambulances to provide the necessary number of paramedics for a call at which procedures required more than one person with their level of training. The new program will allow many of those patients to be treated by a paramedic in a Charger and one in an  ambulance while the second ambulance remains in service.

The advanced paramedic program involves 17 experienced medics who received intense classroom and clinical training for the new roles, the county said.

“We have a shortage of paramedics, both nationally and in the state of North Carolina,” Dr. Brent Myers, Wake County EMS director, said. “This program allows us to make more efficient use of the paramedics that we do have, not only by getting the paramedics where we need them the most, but also by investing their time in prevention with the most acute patient populations that we see.

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