Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy
The Big Game is only a couple of days away and the emergency medical service providers have got their game on, fully prepared for the onslaught of an anticipated 400,000 people to converge on Indianapolis.
This year is the first time the city has hosted the Super Bowl but it’s no stranger to big venues, hosting the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400, arguably two of the biggest auto racing events in the world annually.
So when it came time to start planning for the Super Bowl, providers in Indy were especially prepared for the challenge and are already providing care for scores of visitors who have surged to the city for some pre-game action.
On Thursday, emergency services kicked in for 24-hour coverage that will continue until noon on Monday (Feb. 6).
“We have been planning for this for 18 months,” said Charles “Chuck” Ford, Chief of Administration for Indianapolis EMS. “We have a totally integrated command system with Indianapolis Police Department, EMS and the fire department.”
Ford’s division is comprised of 300 providers at all levels of certification. Most are Indianapolis employees, but a few have been pulled from outside the city and a few private ambulance services have been deployed as well. The idea is to keep overtime pay to a minimum while still providing good care for the visitors and the residents.
“We still have to provide coverage for the rest of the city,” Ford said.
Super Bowl activities began last week and the wave of people has been growing steadily since, said Ford, noting that on Thursday night there were at least 50,000 people gathered for a concert near the Lucas Oil Stadium and another huge crowd at the other end of the Indiana Convention Center for another venue.
Most everything related to the Super Bowl is held in a 12-square block area in downtown Indianapolis, including the game itself, Ford said. Much of that area is cordoned off and secure, open mostly just foot traffic.
That makes it a little easier to provide EMS coverage, Ford said, noting that he is prepared to deploy up to eight tasks forces of six for the venue. On Thursday night, he had two deployed and on game day, he’ll likely deploy all eight. They’re on foot with a stretcher, and two of the six people in the task force are Indianapolis police officers and two others are firefighters.
A small fleet of mobile emergency response vehicles (MERVS) are also strategically deployed and readily available to take patients from the venues to the main, open roads to awaiting ambulances should they require transport to the hospital for care.
“We won’t have to carry anyone more than 20 feet,” Ford said, noting that the MERVs are small, all-terrain vehicles that can navigate tight areas.
For much of the pre-game events, Ford has had an average of four ambulances available to transport patients as needed. In addition to the complement of ambulances he’ll already have staffed, on Game Day, he’ll have two strike teams comprised of eight fully-staffed ambulances posted on opposite sides of the Super Bowl area.
As for supplies and consumables, Ford said the city has that covered too with virtually no additional efforts required. He said Indianapolis EMS has a large, fully-stocked and staffed warehouse of EMS supplies not only for the city, but for 20 other agencies in the region. Additionally, it has a 90-day supply of everything all 20 agencies need.
“We have items palletized and ready in big trucks that we can haul down here should we need it,” Ford said. “If we do that, it will come with another strike team as well.”
To relieve some of the medical surge on the city’s hospitals, a temporary clinic has been created in Union Station that will be open 24-hours a day, through Monday, according to Chad Priest, the CEO of Managed Emergency Surge for Healthcare (MESH).
The “Super Care Clinic” is a first for Super Bowl games in history, Priest said. A similar system was used in the Olympics in Vancouver and China with great success.
“The game allows us to test the plan,” Priest said. “We think it is completely transferable to other events anywhere.”
The Super Care Clinic will be available to any visitor who might have a minor injury or illness that doesn’t need, or want, emergency room care, Priest said.
Chest pain, difficulty breathing and severe trauma calls will be transported to one of the city’s hospitals for more definitive care.
Doctors and support staff from the region’s hospitals will provide the care and many are providing service at or below cost, Priest said. “Nobody is making money on this. That’s not the intent.”
Patients who opt into Super Care Clinic service will be charged a flat fee of $80 which will include any testing that might be required and basic treatment, Priest said.
As for MESH, Priest said it’s a public/private non-profit agency based in Indianapolis that works with emergency service agencies in the region to respond to emergency events and to sustain efforts and remain viable through recovery.
Its mission during the duration of Super Bowl is to relieve the burden on local hospitals, Priest said.
Ford, Indianapolis EMS administration chief, said his providers have full discretion over where patients are taken based on protocols and the provider’s best judgment.
As for the injuries and illnesses anticipated, Ford said it’s difficult to predict precisely what will happen. However, experience shows many of the calls will be for trip and fall injuries and minor lacerations as well as dealing with the consequences of imbibing.
With lots of parties and open bars, Ford is anticipating dealing with many intoxicated patients during the event. Some will just be sick, others might be unconscious and the providers will decide where the individuals need to be to receive appropriate care.
Ford said he expects approximately 50 calls per day with as many as 50 percent of those patients requiring transport for care. It’s obviously difficult to predict call volume, and that’s why planning and preparedness are so important, he said.
“We’re pretty used to this type of event with the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard,” Ford said.
Ford is confident his team is ready for whatever happens and he’s pleased with the extra levels of security to make sure everyone is safe. It makes it a bit more challenging to move people, vehicles and equipment around, but it’s worth it.
“It’s all about logistics,” Ford said. “It’s something we do every day.”