Lawnwood launches interhospital medical vans for patients


They look like mini ambulances. They are equipped with lifesaving equipment like an ambulance, and they are fully staffed with healthcare professionals like an ambulance. They can even navigate traffic with a siren and lights like an ambulance. But they’re actually fully equipped transport vans operated by HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital for patients on the Treasure Coast needing immediate transport between HCA Florida Healthcare’s Lawnwood campuses with plans to grow to serve all HCA facilities in the Treasure Coast.

“A critical element of quality care is getting patients to our facilities as quickly as possible,” said Audrey Stabile, director of emergency services at HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce. “When seconds count, advanced transport services on the ground set the stage for positive patient outcomes. We saw a need to partner with our other ambulance services to better serve our patients who may need to be transferred from one of our facilities to another. We’re not replacing any ambulance services or transporting from the scenes of accidents, but we are now able to expedite transportation internally between our facilities.”

The service is offered at no cost for patients of HCA Florida Healthcare’s branches on the Treasure Coast.

“Based at Lawnwood Hospital, two new Dodge Ram high-roof pro masters were outfitted with the latest in medical technology and serve as rolling emergency rooms to ensure patients receive the fastest, most professional, patient-focused transportation,” according to the hospital.

Each van is fully equipped for medical transport with vital sign machines, oxygen and IV pumps, and staffed by a parametric and an EMT to administer care during transport. The vans are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Delays in seeking specialized medical help are a significant factor in poor outcomes during illness or after injuries and overall time from the onset of symptoms to receiving treatment is critical.

Take for example, a patient who enters an ER with heart attack symptoms. The general recommendation of the American Heart Association is that treatment should be administered within one to two hours of symptom onset. For patients who need percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), the goal is to perform the procedure within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital. For those who need thrombolytic therapy (clot busting drugs), the goal is to administer these drugs within 30 minutes of arrival at the hospital.

Patients treated within the first hour have the best outcomes, with every minute of delay resulting in more heart muscle damage and a higher risk of complications. There just isn’t enough time to wait for third-party transportation to a facility equipped to do these procedures. Immediate transport to the appropriate facility could mean the difference of life and death.

“Having our own transport vehicles gives us the ability to transfer patients from a doctor’s office or an emergent care facility to the trauma unit at the hospital,” says Stabile. “We also anticipate using the vans to transfer patients to and from rehabs or to an assisted living facility. Rather than having the patient wait for an ambulance from another provider, it can all be handled internally by HCA’s transfer center and completed in a more timely manner.”

The four local hospitals networked in the new medical van transport service are HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital in Fort Pierce, HCA Florida St. Lucie Hospital in Port St. Lucie, HCA Florida Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee and HCA Florida Highlands Hospital in Sebring.

The two freestanding emergency room facilities are HCA Florida Vero Beach Emergency and HCA Florida Darwin Square Emergency in Port St. Lucie.

“As we continue to grow, we continue to add services to ensure we are exceeding the needs of the communities we serve,” said HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital Chief Executive Officer Eric Goldman. “We are thrilled to provide patients with expedited services and extra peace of mind when transfer is needed.”

HCA Florida Lawnwood Hospital is a 435-bed, full-service acute care hospital accredited by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration as a comprehensive stroke center. It provides Level II trauma services, Level III neonatal services, pediatric intensive care services, comprehensive stroke services and open-heart surgery, among many other services.

For more information about the hospital, call 772-461-4000 or visit Lawnwood Hospital is a part of HCA Florida Healthcare, a major provider of healthcare in the state of Florida. With an employee base of 77,000, HCA Florida Healthcare’s comprehensive network includes 50 hospital campuses and more than 450 other care sites. Audrey Stabile is a registered nurse who has been with Lawnwood Hospital for 27 years. She started as an EKG technician in 1997 and worked in numerous capacities until her appointment to director of emergency services four years ago.

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