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Community agencies join to purchase AED maintenance equipment

By Sue Sitter - | Nov 7, 2020

Submitted Photo Heart of America Medical Center biomedical technician Dan Tastad uses equipment recently purchased by the hospital to test an AED device.

Local government agencies joined the Rugby Volunteer Fire Department, Rugby Ambulance Service and Heart of America Medical Center in late October to fund the purchase of equipment to keep lifesaving devices throughout the community in working order.

The testing equipment helps Heart of America Medical Center’s biomedical department check batteries for automated external defibrillators placed throughout the Rugby area and in ambulances serving Rugby and surrounding communities.

“I think it’s great how the Rugby Fire Department, Rugby Fire Department Auxiliary, and Pierce County pitched in to purchase AED testing equipment for the HAMC Biomed Department to make sure the many AEDs strategically scattered through the Heart of America service area are in top working condition,” said Good Samaritan Health Services Foundation Director Cathy Jelsing. The foundation raises funds to purchase equipment for the hospital.

“In addition to AEDs, (hospital biomedical technicians) can use the equipment to test Lifepak monitor/defibrillators utilized in various departments throughout the hospital,” Jelsing noted. “Prior to receiving these funds HAMC had to rent the testing equipment.”

The testing equipment cost $6,035. The Rugby Volunteer Fire Department contributed $1,767.50 toward the purchase, according to the fire department’s Gary Kraft. The Rugby Fire Department Auxiliary contributed $2,500 for the equipment. Kraft said the funds donated by the department would be reimbursed by the City of Rugby.

“It was a big investment to get the AEDs in the first place, so we want to make sure they’re maintained and useable when they’re needed,” Kraft said.

Pierce County commissioners voted to contribute $1,767.50 in county funds toward the purchase. The funds were contributed in accordance with an agreement subject to renewal every three years.

HAMC biomedical technician Dan Tastad said ambulance personnel have brought AEDs to him for testing since their purchase seven years ago.” Every year, we had to rent this machine for testing,” Tastad said. “It really wasn’t cost-effective. I asked (hospital administrators) to look for a way to purchase one so I don’t have to rent this machine for two or three months. I can use it throughout the year.”

Rugby Ambulance Service Manager Cameron Thornberg said emergency medical staff maintain between 35 and 40 AEDs owned by the service “plus 11 we do not (own) that we have been paying for batteries and pads for, including the one in the courthouse and other county offices.”

“The battery for the AED in the courthouse alone costs $390 every time we replace it,” Thornberg said, adding the hospital replaces the courthouse AED’s battery every two years. “Most AEDs aren’t that expensive to replace the battery,” Thornberg added. “We used to pay for all of this out of a grant and now we are paying for it out of our budget. Those 11 AEDs (in the community) cost us about $1,000 a year to keep running.”

Jelsing said, “The last time an AED was used in Rugby was a little over a year ago, when the Rugby police used an AED from their patrol car to save a man’s life.”

Thornberg said officers had used the device successfully, restoring the man’s heartbeat before emergency medical technicians arrived. “It definitely saved the person,” Thornberg said.

Ashley Berg, a county commissioner who also serves as fire department auxiliary president, said, “The fire department works closely with the ambulance crew and knows the importance of the equipment.”

“The community is so generous to the fire department auxiliary through calendar donations, that we want to assist where applicable. We want to work together and make sure everyone is equipped in protecting and saving lives in our community,” Berg added.

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