"It was an excellent program for its time," Fire Capt. Craig
Canfield said, remembering his time as a paramedic in the late 1970s.
"It was much better than what there was before. It was the ease of
Before the program in Burbank, paramedics used primitive portable
phones and radios and even victims' phones to call hospitals in
Northridge and Glendale to contact physicians at bases there, Burbank
Battalion Chief Frank Walbert said.
But radio signals to faraway hospitals were poor. Walbert, a
paramedic since 1975, even used cookie sheets to build make-shift
antennas to buffer poor signals to the hospitals.
The base program at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center enhanced
radio communication and helped make Burbank's fledgling corps of
paramedics more efficient, Canfield said.
The program was recognized Tuesday by the City Council.
The hospital opened its base station in the summer of 1977,
becoming the county's 26th station.
Walbert said the paramedic service has evolved so much that many
procedures paramedics called in years ago have become standard
But the program, directed by emergency room doctors, serves
important oversight functions in critical cases. Paramedics still
communicate with nurses and physicians like they did before.
Jenny Santen, who was as a nurse in the base station's early
years, said the station saved a lot of lives.
"It was the most rewarding time of my career," she said.