Southern Tier Health Care System unveils ambulance simulator

This article originally appeared in the Olean Times Herald.

OLEAN — With precious time ticking away, a local EMT scrambles to take calm, rational, life-saving action in the back of a moving ambulance. Sound easy? Not at all.

To help prepare a tri-county network of first responders for that moment, Southern Tier Health Care System Inc. is introducing the Walter L. Reisner Memorial Ambulance Simulator. It’s a technology-infused teaching tool that mimics the environment of a true emergency in a controlled setting. Completed July 3, it’s the only such simulator between Monroe Community College in Rochester and Broome Community College in Binghamton.

Ruth Reisner, surviving wife of the late Trans Am founder and STHCS board member, gave generously in his name for the project.

“Walt truly was a pioneer for our local EMS system,” said Donna Kahm, STHCS president and CEO. “Services to this area wouldn’t be where they are today without his initial vision and guidance. We thank Ruth for keeping her husband’s name alive through educating the next generations of emergency personnel.”

It’s now available for EMT trainings with Southern Tier Emergency Medical System, a program of STHCS, which credentials and provides educational support to 93 EMS agencies and some 900 providers across Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. Those agencies responded to approximately 45,000 ambulance calls last year.

“You couldn’t put a dollar figure on the value of this training facility,” Kahm said. “Every resident in these three counties — over a quarter-million people — might someday rely on these lifesaving services. Providing the most realistic training scenario possible will help local EMS providers make the right decision and act accordingly in the most stressful of environments.”

You can, however, put a value on cost-saving ingenuity, officials said. Ordering a prefabricated simulator from an outside company could have cost more than $90,000. But it ultimately cost less than $10,000 to build it in-house with local financial support, material donations and expert consultation from member agencies. The simulator measures 8’6” tall by 11’ long and features a realistic interior and medical equipment available in a full-service ambulance.

“That’s what made this project so amazing,” Kahm said. “We’re a rural health network in the most under-resourced part of the state. Often times, we have to think outside the box to offer the same services other area agencies may have.”

The simulator will be housed at Southern Tier Health Care System’s new distance-learning Training Center, which connects the main center at 150 N. Union St. in Olean with a satellite location in each of the three counties. EMT trainees at Olean and the other sites can watch hands-on simulations in progress. Scenarios also are recorded for debriefing by the instructor or medical director. The Training Center video conferencing equipment comes courtesy of a recent $132,899 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program.

“An entire community of EMS providers, instructors, charitable agencies and health care stakeholders came together and took ownership of this project,” Kahm said.“This community recognizes the importance of training when it comes to rendering services that could save you or a loved one.”

Southern Tier Health Care System, Inc. is a rural health care net-work serving Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. Its mission is to improve the health and wellness of our rural communities. STHCS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit agency. For more information, visit or call 372-0614.

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