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New Cedar Falls Ambulance Building Reducing Response Times

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa-- Minutes can seem like hours when waiting for an ambulance.

With a new emergency services building in southern Cedar Falls, Iowa, it takes fewer of those precious minutes to reach many of those in need.

Dave Wedeking, a Sartori Memorial Hospital paramedic, said the new building on South Main Street Road can make all the difference when it comes to victims of heart attacks, motor vehicle accidents or industrial accidents.

They are things that those first few minutes are really crucial, Wedeking said.

Josh Galloway, another paramedic, said being on duty at the new location already made a difference when a woman was seriously injured in an accident at South Main and Orchard Drive, a location that took him a minute to get to, but would have taken five to six minutes from the other ambulance location at Sartori.

Angela Buskohl, ambulance services manager for Sartori, said the new building has greatly improved response times for calls to locations south of University Avenue since it opened in June.

Prior to opening the new facility, Sartori had response times of seven to nine minutes. Those time have been reduced by three to four minutes.

Fire rescue crews have noticed the difference. Before the new building opened, fire crews were first on the scene 60 to 65 percent of the time. Since opening, that has been reduced to 40 to 45 percent.

What that indicated to us is the advanced life support paramedic care is getting to the scene 20 percent quicker now overall, said Fire Chief Steve Mitchell.

Not only are the response times faster, but they have gotten faster in an area of the city with a heavy demand for ambulance services.

Retirement communities and nursing homes in the south end of the town include the Western Home communities, the Lutheran Home and Mallard Point. In addition, the south end of town has the industrial park, Wal-Mart and College Square Mall.

We knew from our statistics before we went out to the building that about 41 percent of responses were to that area, Buskohl said.

Currently the building houses a two-person ambulance crew 24 hours a day. A second crew continues to operate out of Sartori. The Pinnacle Prairie building was opened without adding staff, as Sartori had operated with two crews out of the hospital but now just splits the two crews between the buildings.

The emergency services building was constructed with the idea that a fire engine crew would operate there as well. Office space also would be made available for police to stop in and do paperwork. Officers currently stop in nearly every day to file reports or conduct interviews.

The fire department has yet to make use of the building.

The long-range plan was always to have a fire presence out there, but there are funding and staffing issues for that, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said that perhaps fire staff could use the building sometime between 2010 to 2012, but that depends on City Council goals and growth in the area.

The community growth has to pay for the expansion of our services, Mitchell said.

Contact Jon Ericson at (319) 291-1461 or jonathan.ericson@wcfcourier.com

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