Action by the Forest Park Village Council, March 26, will enhance emergency medical services for residents and improve the police department’s communications capabilities.

The village council unanimously voted to ratify a grant agreement that will allow the purchase of new laptop computers for the police department’s 23 vehicles and approve and authorize a mobile stroke unit service agreement with Rush University Medical Center.

Police Chief Tom Aftanas said the new laptops, which are crash- and weather-resistant, will allow officers to file their accident reports online instead of hand-writing them. The $89,470 cost will be covered by a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In response to a question from Commissioner Dan Novak, Aftanas said the grant will cover all costs.

Aftanas said the laptop purchase “should speed the process up” and will benefit the state police because they will receive accident reports more quickly.

A four-year grant from the Grainger Foundation in Lake Forest will fund the creation and deployment of the mobile stroke unit. This enhanced ambulance will contain telemedicine technology and a CT scanner, enabling the brain imaging that is critical to accurate stroke diagnoses and treatment, according to a Rush spokesman.

Fire Chief Bob McDermott explained that the mobile stroke unit will assess, diagnose and treat a patient in front of his own home.

“I’m excited,” he said. “This can save a life. Residents will benefit from this.”

Kirk Bobst, nurse manager of the mobile stroke program, explained that the concept of mobile stroke units was created in Germany in 2008. He said having the mobile stroke unit on scene could save 25 to 45 minutes compared to taking a patent to a hospital by ambulance.

McDermott also said it can take “a lot of time” for a patient to be seen in a hospital emergency room, even those brought to the hospital by ambulance.

The mobile stroke unit, the first in Illinois, is being offered to municipalities within a 5-mile radius of Rush Oak Park Hospital with Broadview, North Riverside, Oak Park and Stone Park already participating. 

Bobst said a four-person team will be on the mobile stroke unit and “clot-busting” medication will be available if needed. He said the clot-busting medicine was used twice in North Riverside in March, potentially saving a life each time.

McDermott noted that the mobile stroke unit personnel will use telemedicine technology to communicate with a stroke neurologist, who will assist with diagnosis and treatment.

In response to a question from Commissioner Joe Brynes, Bobst said the mobile stroke unit will be stationed at Rush Oak Park Hospital. He also said stroke patients will not automatically be transported to Rush Oak Park Hospital with the Forest Park ambulance crew helping to determine where to take the patient.

McDermott added that the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center, which handles 911 calls from Forest Park, Oak Park, River Forest, Park Ridge and Elmwood Park, will dispatch the Forest Park ambulance and the mobile stroke unit together in response to a 911 call that indicates a patient might be suffering a stroke. He added that the Forest Park ambulance crew could also request the mobile stroke unit if they arrive on a call and learn that the patient is exhibiting symptoms of a stroke. 

In response to a question from Commissioner Dan Novak, Bobst said the service will be offered between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily with the hope to expand it around the clock.