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Base Station marks 25 years

August 03, 2002

Ryan Carter

The paramedic base station at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center

has weathered the evolution of the profession for the past 25 years.

When it started, the base was a novel concept. A Burbank Fire

Department paramedic treating a victim would call in to the hospital

by radio or phone, and a doctor or nurse would provide directions for

appropriate medical care.

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"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

contact."

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

emergency treatment.

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.

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