No Ambulance for Toothache: Virginia Departments Switching to Need-Based Response - News - @ JEMS.com


No Ambulance for Toothache: Virginia Departments Switching to Need-Based Response

Chesapeake is among the first cities to switch from a traditional model driven by response time


 
 

KRISTIN DAVIS, The Virginian-Pilot | | Friday, May 14, 2010


Chesapeake - Paramedics on a quarter-million-dollar medic unit sounded sirens as they raced to the scene of a toothache this spring.

They answered with similar zeal when a woman dialed 911 after spritzing herself in the eyes with perfume and when a kid got a fish hook jammed in a finger.

The Chesapeake Fire Department's protocol has been the same regardless of the circumstances. Come July 1, how quickly help gets to your door will depend on the nature of the complaint.

"If it's a true life-threatening emergency, you'll get a medic unit with a paramedic," fire Chief Edmund Elliott said.

Call with a toothache or a back strain or a pierced finger, and you might get a van with a part-time EMT.

It might take them an hour to get there.

Just as police calls are prioritized - a robbery in progress will pre-empt a bicycle theft - so will calls for medical attention. And the number of medics and firefighters on duty will depend on the hour of the day.

Chesapeake is among the first cities to switch from a traditional model driven by response time to one that is need-based, said Charles Werner, president of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association.

"The realization is we really have to be more effective and efficient," Werner said. "With the challenges we all have economically ... I think this is a trend you're going to see really begin to happen and unfold across the country."

The Charlottesville Fire Department, of which Werner is chief, used to send three fire engines and a ladder truck to all fire alarms even though less than 0.5 percent turned out to be emergencies, he said.

"It makes you think outside the box, just as Chesapeake has done."

Now Charlottesville sends one fire engine and a ladder truck.

Chesapeake dispatchers will consult a list to rank the urgency of calls; a supervisor can upgrade or downgrade a call.

The department tested the new model for six months in 2007. It was meant to meet the demands of an aging population without expanding the department, Elliott said. "Little did we know that in just two years, we'd be facing a recession" - and an $887,000 spending cut in fiscal year 2011.

They'll lose a dozen vacant positions and two $230,000 medic units equipped to handle heart attacks and major traumas. A pair of $20,000 SUVs and a pair of $60,000 vans with part-time EMTs will help pick up the slack and extend the life of pricey equipment.

"It will create some problems," Werner said. "It will create problems because everyone has an expectation when they call 911 to have a vehicle there within 10 minutes. In this case it may be longer. It might be half an hour. But if you look at it, it's saying we're going to send the resources, and we're going to send them as quickly as needed."

It's also safer for folks out on the road, Werner said.

"It will take a good marketing campaign," said Bruce Nedelka, EMS division chief in Virginia Beach.

There, medics are often diverted from smashed fingers and lingering fevers for life-threatening emergencies.

"I'm sure issues will come up that they will have to deal with," Nedelka sai d. "People are pretty crafty. If they call for a stubbed toe and they don't say the right buzz words to get help fast, the next time they call, they're going to say the right buzz words."

Less than a third of all emergency calls in Chesapeake involve life-and-death situations. More than half require only basic care.

Ambulances back up five, six and seven deep at Chesapeake General Hospital. Medic units are shifted from one part of the city to another to cover the resulting gaps. Sometimes, they are borrowed from other cities.

"The calls manage the department," Elliott said. "We need to draw the line in the sand, and let's control how we respond."

Kristin Davis, (757) 222-5208,

kristin.davis@pilotonline.com



Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, Administration and Leadership, Communications and Dispatch, Operations and Protcols, response, dispatch, communications, 911 abuse

What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Truck Strikes Pedestrians in Scotland

Six killed in downtown Glasgow.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >