Trinity EMS Official Brings Expertise to China Forum

October 22, 2018 GMT

LOWELL -- A member of the Trinity EMS leadership team found himself discussing American ambulance service in a somewhat unexpected place earlier this month: China.

Jon Kelley, director of communications and IT for Trinity EMS, was a guest speaker at the China Ambulance Forum, which brings together emergency care leaders across China -- as well as special guests from other countries -- every two years.

“I hope I highlighted some of the EMS (emergency medical services) system in America in a good light -- I think I did,” he said, reflecting on the experience.

Kelley, of Pepperell, has been with Trinity for 21 years. He started out as an EMT and dispatcher, and joined the management team about seven years ago.

The opportunity to go to China came via Trinity Fleet Director Drew Morrow, of Billerica, who serves on the national Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services Ground Vehicle Standards Committee. Morrow was approached by American Emergency Vehicles, the manufacturer of Trinity’s ambulances, Kelley said. AEV’s parent company, REV Group Inc., has a relationship with Ningbo Careful Special Cars of China, which organizes the forum, Kelley said.

Careful likes to bring in one or two special guests to provide perspectives from other countries at the forum, he said. This year, they welcomed Kelley as an American and an EMS official from Japan, he said.

Before agreeing to go, Kelley cleared the trip with his cardiologist. Following a heart attack many years ago, he said his family worries when he travels to the other side of the country for business, never mind halfway around the world.

On Oct. 9, Kelley took a 14-hour business-class flight from Boston to Shanghai, all expenses paid by Careful. His 62 hours on the ground in China were a whirlwind of activity.

On the first full day, he met with his interpreter to go over the final details of his presentation, and then attended the conference.

There were a number of topics Kelley discussed in his presentation, at the request of Careful, including:

n System status management and using data to direct ambulance staffing and deployment: Trinity looks at past call volume across seasons, time of day, location and other parameters to determine where and how many ambulances need to be available, Kelley said.

“Every emergency that we do service for, the system has a stopwatch running as soon as the call is taken through when the ambulance clears the hospital, so we know exactly how long a call takes,” he said.

The system determines the average amount of time worked on a given day across weeks, giving Trinity an idea of how many ambulances it needs to staff on that day and at what times, Kelley said. Trinity is contractually obligated to have a minimum of five ambulances in Lowell, two in Chelmsford and two in Dracut at any time, but will keep additional ambulances staffed in Lowell, based on past need, to be deployed as needed in any of the communities, he said.

Do you tend to see ambulances stationed by the 7-Eleven at Chelmsford and Westford streets or by Top Donut on Aiken Street near VFW Highway? That’s not a coincidence -- Trinity tries to position ambulances in top call volume areas for quicker responses, Kelley said.

n How the U.S. handles mass casualty incidents and deploys multiple ambulances to large-scale emergencies: Kelley spoke about mutual aid agreements with neighboring communities and the role of Massachusetts’ Central Medical Emergency Direction Center and regional fire districts.

He gave the example of how communities in the local district worked together to send additional ambulances and fire trucks to respond to the recent gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Kelley said the interpreter assisted him in answering follow-up questions, and helped to give him a very basic understanding of the topics presented by the other speakers in Chinese. He said he was fascinated to learn that ambulances in the Ningbo area are staffed with a driver, doctor and nurse, unlike in the U.S., where ambulances most often have EMTs and paramedics.

Kelley didn’t encounter a single American outside of the airport, but did find one piece of home in the vendor room at the conference: cardiac monitors manufactured by Chelmsford-based Zoll Medical Corp., same as the ones Trinity uses in its ambulances.

The following day, a driver and the interpreter escorted Kelley around the area for sightseeing and cultural experiences.

He got to see Hangzhou’s West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which he called “staggeringly beautiful.” He saw Shanghai by day and by night, and was treated to meals in highly rated restaurants.

For a “pizza and chicken nugget guy,” it was interesting to try pigeon, “which actually tasted much like chicken,” Kelley said.

He said he found the scale of everything in China to be “overwhelming,” from the 20-plus-story apartment buildings that were everywhere to the shopping mall so large it had to contain, at his estimate, about 100,000 people.

“I stayed in the city of Ningbo, which has 3.5 million to 4 million people, and I’d never heard of it,” Kelley said.

Kelley hopes the trip won’t be a one-time occasion, and that it can help to open a continuing EMS dialogue between the two countries.

“If I can be the opening act of that, if you will, that would be pretty cool,” he said.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.