Val Verde Regional Medical Center’s two new state-of-the-art ambulances were given a traditional blessing Friday.

Val Verde Regional Medical Center Spiritual Care Coordinator Dane Boyles offered the blessing prayer during a brief ceremony outside the hospital’s ambulance entrance.

“This is the first time in 30 years that we’ve had a completely upgraded ambulance fleet. We have two new ambulances that are about $200,000 apiece when you include all the equipment, and the ambulances that they replaced had almost 400,000 miles on them, each,” Val Verde Regional Medical Center Director of Emergency Services Malachi Fisher said before the ceremony.

There are seven ambulances in the hospital’s fleet, and measures are being taken to plan upgrades in the future, he said.

“Our new ambulance replacement plan is one ambulance every fiscal year, starting in 2021,” Fisher said.

Val Verde Regional Medical Center’s emergency medical services crew includes 24 full-time members.

“We also have a peak ambulance crew, which is filled by per-diem staff, and then we have our communications department and our fleet department, so total staff is 53,” he said.

Fisher said the blessing ceremony is a tradition.

“It’s a good omen to have someone bless the ambulances and have someone say a prayer for the ambulances, so we wanted to definitely do it with these two new ambulances. It’s kind of a big moment because it is, again, the first time in the history of Val Verde EMS that we have a completely upgraded fleet,” Fisher said.

He said the new ambulances provide comfort for the patient and the crews.

“There’s new standards out there with crash test ratings that they enacted in 2017, so all of the new ambulances have to meet certain crash test ratings, and these meet those ratings. Also, there are different suspension guidelines to make for a smoother ride, especially when we have to take patients to San Antonio or when we go on ranch roads out in the county,” Fisher said.

Fisher said the hospital’s EMS crews make about 18 runs per day.

The new ambulances feature gurneys that allow paramedics to load patients with greater ease and comfort.

“This is a $42,000 setup that basically loads the patient for you, so the crews no longer have to lift with their backs,” Fisher said.

He also noted the ambulances also include an array of new technologies so crews can more rapidly get patients the medical help they need.

“These monitors, they go for about $38,000 apiece, and they have BlueTooth technology and WiFi, so we can do real-time EKGs and transmit them to the emergency room for cardiac activation. They can also pace a patient, so if a patient’s heart rate is too low, you can put pads on and actually increase their heart rate,” Fisher said.

When the blessing ceremony began, Fisher welcomed members of the Val Verde Regional Medical Center board of directors, senior hospital leaders and members of his emergency medical services staff.

“Our call volume has been increasing steadily. We have increased by about 500 calls this year over last year. The call volume is going up. Del Rio’s population is growing, and we plan on growing with it,” Fisher said.

He then asked if any board members wished to speak.

Raul Alatorre, board president, urged paramedics to drive safely, and Val Verde Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Linda Walker, said, “I just want to say I appreciate everyone coming out and everything that our EMS crews do. I hear all the time what great service they give, and I’m very honored to be part of this group. We’re very blessed to have the staff we have, with the expertise they have, and to have the board’s support to give us this excellent technology, so thank you.”

Boyles asked those present to pray with him.

He asked for blessings on the equipment and crews.

Afterward, those who attended the brief ceremony were able to take a look at the new ambulances.

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