Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Susan Garcia, head of the Emergency Medical Services for Children program in Utah, checks over supplies in one of the state's two EMSC trailers. Children are not small adults, medical personnel stress.

The number of children who die as a result of their accident-related injuries has dropped 40 percent in the past two decades. It's a direct result of specialized training and better equipment geared specifically to meet the needs of injured youngsters, who are not just small adults says Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

Matheson stood Tuesday with pediatric intensive care specialist Dr. J. Michael Dean and Shauna Hatton-Ward, emergency medical program volunteer, in front of one of Utah's two Emergency Medical Services for Children trailers to tout the importance of a bill that funds specialized, kid-focused training for emergency medical personnel. The House has passed HR2464 to reauthorize the EMSC program. Now the issue is before the Senate.

The bill is called the Wakefield Act for a rural health center director who in 2005 lost her brother and two of the brother's children in an auto accident. A third child survived because of emergency room care.

Dean and Matheson also used the news conference to remind people that summer is prime time for accidents involving kids and to caution parents to remain vigilant to guard child safety.

The EMSC program provides grants to states or medical schools to expand and improve emergency medical services for children who need critical or trauma care. Emphasis is placed on knowing the right way to treat children with various injuries, since it's not always the same way you'd treat an adult. The program also supports two national resource centers, one of them at the University of Utah.

The two trailers, which carry equipment to treat up to 100 children in a mass disaster situation, are tied to the state's six strike teams, according to Susan Garcia, pediatric registered nurse who heads the EMSC program in Utah. The specially equipped trailers for children's medical care will be located at the north and south ends of the state. There are four teams that each have nine doctors, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, emergency medical technicians and others who respond to a disaster scene as needed to help with young patients, she said. Dean gave the example of a school collapse or a bus rollover as situations where the EMSC trailer might be needed. Especially in rural areas, there are neither enough supplies or manpower to handle a large-scale emergency, he said.

Six similar trailers statewide are used for non-children-specific mass casualty incidents.

Utah has reportedly one of only two pediatric-specific strike teams in the country.

"Pediatric disasters are rare," said Dean, who is also medical director of the EMSC program. He said "any hospital in Utah but the largest" would be hard-pressed to deal with an emergency involving numerous children.

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