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State Patty’s Day: Consider the Indirect Medical Implications

This is the fourth of a five-part series detailing Onward State’s stance on State Patty’s Day.

Students do need to realize that the amount of drinking that occurred on last State Patty’s Day created a real public safety situation last year. There were periods of the day when there were no EMS available to respond.

That quote comes from Dr. Dennis Shea, head of the Department of Health Policy and Administration at Penn State, and was featured in a post leading up to the 2010 edition of State Pattys Day.

Two years later, Onward State met up with Shea (better known around here as GTWMA) for another discussion. With calls to the police and criminal charges–as well as emergency room visits–increasing year after year, the final line of that quote seems like a good, albeit horrifying, element to focus on.

The duty of an Emergency Medical Technician is to answer an emergency call on the scene, to provide immediate medical procedures if needed, and to transport a patient to the hospital for further care. The types of emergency that an EMT should be responding to are heart attacks, strokes, and car accidents, not alcohol poisoning. But excessive consumption is exactly what led to the frightening phrase “No medic available” being uttered over the last few State Patty’s Days.

And that’s not always a good use of the very finite resources medical providers have.

“If police find a person who appears to be impaired by alcohol, the individual is no longer able to make a deicison and police must call us. We must go to the hospital even if we don’t want to,” said Dan Phillips, a local EMT.

Phillips grew up a State College native, but has also seen the “holiday” from the vantage point of a tenured EMT. “State Patty’s Day began to take on a life of its own in 2009. It changed how we operate and makes it harder for police to stop others.”

Manpower is pushed to the maximum that day, with the fourth weekend in February now requiring twice as many medical personnel in the streets of State College as Arts Fest and home football weekends. Calls last year to the police and EMTs began as early as 11 a.m., and even with so many personnel on hand, response times lasted between 30 and 45 minutes.

That’s despite the fact that there were seven ambulances on call over State Patty’s Day Weekend. Penn State supplied two, three came from State College, one all the way from Bellefonte, and the last brought in from Pleasant Gap.

In a Patriot-News story posted two days ago, Dr. Theodore Ziff, medical director of the emergency department at Mount Nittany Medical Center explained the hardship that goes into treating inebriated patients:

“It’s a lot of extra work. Typically, these patients are time-consuming, somewhat hard to manage. Some are abusive. They require a tremendous amount of nursing care. Many are incoherent, sometimes very vocal.” That’s an issue for emergency medical technicians, figuring out who is drunk and is critically injured.”

During the last State Patty’s Day, seven calls were made to Centre LifeLink between the half-hour interval of 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. That essentially means that had an eighty year-old woman in Bellefonte been suffering a heart attack at 3:25, there would have been no ambulance there to take her to the hospital. She would’ve had to wait until some drunken party-goer had his turn.

The potential ramifications are endless, but fortunately, nothing quite that tragic has happened. Yet.

“There has been nothing major in terms of those types of incidents, but luck was a big factor. We cross our fingers it continues”, said Phillips.

At this point, many of you who have made it this far are likely thinking:

“But bro, why you be telling me all these facts and statistics and shit? My friends and I know how to party without fucking shit up this weekend.”

Well, maybe you do, but based on the thirty-four alcohol related calls to Centre LifeLink last year and the various reports and charges of crime and vandalism downtown, not everyone does. This holiday doesn’t just affect those who choose to participate in it. Getting so drunk that you require medical attention isn’t a rite of passage, it’s a selfish act.

So if you elect to participate in State Patty’s Day this coming weekend, please drink responsibly and act responsibily while drinking.

You could put a nervous paramedic a little more at ease and maybe save a life in the process.

You can see the previous posts from our series below:

Part 1: State Patty’s Day Dangerous to Image After Sandusky Scandal

Part 2: State Patty’s Day: Act Like You’ve Partied Before

Part 3: State Patty’s Day: A “Holiday” Not For Everyone


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