While he hopes he never has to use it, Jim Nobel, manager of Action Inc.'s Main Street shelter, says he's glad that Beauport Ambulance has given the shelter a defibrillator and some higher level first-aid and CPR training time.
John Morris, head of Beauport Ambulance, said the local emergency medical services company wanted to donate two automatic external defibrillators to agencies that needed it most. Defibrillators deliver a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart, allowing the heart's natural pacemaker to reestablish normal heart. The type Beauport wanted to donate automate the diagnosis of treatable heart rhythms, meaning that lay responders or bystanders are able to use them successfully with little, or in some cases, no training at all.
Beauport, Morris said, started looking for places in January and heard from a couple of agencies across the city seeking the donations. Beauport donated one of the defribrallator and training packages to Action; it has not been decided which agency will receive the other package.
The Action shelter didn't have that kind of equipment before this. He said it's one of the places that needed it most.
"You'd hope you never have to use that piece of equipment," said Morris. "But if you do, it's within arms reach of anyone in that building now."
Morris said Action Inc. asked about the defibrillator in early February.
Action Inc. tentatively added eight beds to its shelter in December to address a rising population of homeless. With more people at the shelter, and more of those people the kind that could have severe medical problems, Morris said the company decided to donate the machine to hopefully ease the shelter's need for city emergency services.
The company provided health care provider level cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid training for the Action shelter staff. Morris said that training might help reduce the number of times ambulances respond to the shelter.
During the Zoning Board of Appeal's approval process for the shelter's eight more beds, he said he heard neighbors were concerned with how often the Fire Department ambulance responds there.
More often than not, he said, patients they're called to treat refuse treatment. With the training, he said, Action staff will be able to identify emergencies that need paramedic assistance and hospital transport.
Nobel said the shelter started that process a while ago, and it sends some guests who say they need to go to the hospital by cab.
The shelter asked the city for permission to add beds last year.
The number of homeless in Gloucester kept growing from the winter's usual high point in 2011. That increase had shelter staff turning people away at the door for lack of a place to sleep.
Nobel said that, in the 13 years he's worked in the shelter, he hasn't had a guest go into cardiac arrest. But, having the machine there, he added, is a good thing.
"When the need arises, we'll be prepared," he said.
The shelter's additional beds came with a condition. Action Inc. officials have to go back before the Zoning Board of Appeals at the end of the month, with board members looking at how the nonprofit shelter addressed neighborhood concerns over the winter.
If the board deems it hasn't, the shelter's bed limit goes back to the old count of 26.
Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.