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Laurel city representatives and state officials speak during a press conference to discuss the planned closure of Laurel Regional across the street from Laurel Regional Hospital in Laurel, MD on Tuesday, September 8, 2015.  (Video by Jen Rynda/ Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The transition of Laurel Regional Hospital to an Ambulatory Care Center will greatly affect emergency medical services provided to the citizens of the greater Laurel area.

The Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad, Inc. Company 49 owns and operates 2 Basic Life Support units from our station, with the ability to provide advanced life support care with our volunteer paramedics. Basic life support has been the backbone of the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad since 1952, when it was founded to provide medical services to the citizen of Laurel.

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It was also the first company in the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department to place an all-olunteer paramedic ambulance in service on a consistent basis.

The distance that the Volunteer Rescue Squad will travel to other regional hospitals around us to deliver patients to definitive care is the most affected part of the proposed service model. Laurel Regional Hospital is 2.5 miles away from the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad. The next-closest hospitals are Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham at 9.8 miles, Howard County General Hospital in Columbia at 12.2 miles away and Bowie Health Center (a non-acute hospital) at 13.9 miles. These much-farther transports will delay in-hospital treatment of acute care patients and significantly increase the amount of time our units will remain out of service and not available to respond to additional requests for emergency calls.

Ambulances and paramedic units from Laurel will be more frequently transporting patients out of the area causing a larger gap in coverage affecting the current response model employed by the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department. The burden on other surrounding hospital facilities is another unforeseen chain reaction causing these farther facilities to have increased wait times, increased patient volume, and an increase in the tumaround time for units transporting to those facilities.

Nursing home calls comprise a large number of the transports we respond to on a yearly basis, whether from the Cherry Lane Nursing Center or one of more than 15 different "in-home" nursing facilities located in neighborhoods around Laurel. These patients need definitive care that cannot be managed by an ambulatory care center as currently planned for the Laurel Regional Hospital replacement.

The Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad responds to approximately 3,200 ambulance calls a year. In 2015, our statistics reveal approximately 87 percent of patients were transported to Laurel Regional Hospital, 8 percent to Howard County General Hospital, 2 percent to Prince George's County Trauma Center, and 3 percent combined to other regional hospitals.

In summary, the closing of Laurel Regional Hospital with the proposed transition to an Ambulatory Care Center will have a rippling affect on the emergency services and level of acute patient care to the citizens of the entire Laurel area.

Michael J. Haggerty

Fire/EMS Chief

Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad

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