STEC announces advanced lab testing, first EMS agency to offer in South Texas

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A South Texas Emergency Care Foundation ambulance is parked outside the Valley Baptist Emergency Center Harlingen Sept. 5, 2021, on North Ed Carey Drive. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

HARLINGEN — The South Texas Emergency Care Foundation announced it has achieved a milestone in the quality of healthcare to be provided to patients.

STEC is the first EMS provider in South Texas to perform clinical laboratory testing using state-of-the-art epoc blood analysis systems in its Community Health Paramedicine program and to achieve laboratory accreditation.

As part of its continuous effort to improve health care services and with a financial grant from Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, STEC has developed and implemented its CHP program.

The first of its kind in South Texas, the CHP program is designed to treat and support patients in their homes and, when medically appropriate, to avoid unnecessary and expensive 911 calls and responses, ambulance transports, emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

For patients enrolled and participating in the program, specially trained CHP paramedics perform regular home visits and medical evaluations and facilitate communications between the patients and their healthcare providers, as well as social service organizations as needed.

In order to expand and further improve the services provided by the CHP program, STEC purchased epoc blood analysis equipment, which enables the paramedic, by using a simple fingerstick, to obtain 13 lab-accurate blood gas, electrolyte and metabolite test results in less than a minute.

STEC’s CHP paramedic can instantly communicate the test results to the patient’s doctor, enabling an immediate evaluation and medical response and avoiding the time and expense of a physical trip to a lab, clinic or hospital.

According to Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc., the manufacturer of the epoc blood analysis equipment, STEC is only the second EMS provider in Texas to utilize this state-of-the-art equipment to provide this higher level of advanced clinical laboratory service.

The use of the epoc blood analysis system exceeds the capability of and standard of care provided by almost all EMS providers in Texas and requires specialized training for the proper administration of the clinical laboratory testing and the reporting of the test results.

Under federal law, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 requires a higher level of certification due to the advanced complexity of the laboratory tests performed using this equipment.

One method of achieving this certification requirement is through enrollment with an approved accrediting organization, such as COLA Inc.

After a lengthy and rigorous process including providing evidence of compliance with all applicable standards and criteria and a successful site visit, STEC’s mobile laboratory has been granted accreditation.

The accomplishment of obtaining a higher level of certificate has been achieved by fewer than 2 percent of EMS providers in Texas and by no other EMS provider in the Rio Grande Valley or elsewhere in South Texas.

About STEC

STEC is a nonprofit charitable foundation organized in 1979 which provides a wide array of emergency and non-emergency medical services, including ground and fixed-wing ambulance transports, to the residents of Harlingen, San Benito, La Feria, Primera, Combes, Santa Rosa, Palm Valley, Rio Hondo and most of the unincorporated areas of northern Cameron County.

Over the last 44 years, STEC has consistently implemented advancements in the training and medical capabilities of its professional EMS personnel and continuously operated a fleet of ambulance vehicles with the most up-to-date medical equipment.

STEC’s day-to-day operations are managed in a hands-on manner by an administrative staff with decades of EMS experience.