DuPont creates medical reserve program to mitigate loss of emergency transport services

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During the Dec. 11 DuPont City Council Meeting, Mayor Michael Grayum announced the creation of an Emergency Medical Reserve program to mitigate the anticipated loss of medical transport services to DuPont. The Emergency Medical Reserve program will train reserves to serve as volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) providers. Reserves will operate under the direct supervision of the City’s career firefighters. The primary role of the reserves will be to support the delivery of basic life support and provide medical transport services.

“Our City’s highest priority is providing the best public safety services with the resources we have available,” said Mayor Grayum. “This new reserve program will create an opportunity for able, willing and reliable volunteers to assist our talented team of firefighters in providing basic life support and medical transport services that other entities are no longer providing for our community.”

On November 10, the city was notified that West Pierce Fire & Rescue would no longer provide Advance Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) emergency medical services and medic unit transports for DuPont, beginning January 1, 2013. The announcement from West Pierce followed the recent reorganization of American Medical Response services, which reduced the number of  BLS and ALS medic units deployed in Pierce and King Counties. American Medical Response has transitioned their medic unit’s closer to core population centers, which reduced medical transport services to DuPont.

DuPont firefighters currently provide BLS services for the residents and businesses of DuPont. All DuPont Firefighters are EMT certified. Since 2009, the primary providers for ALS intervention and transport have been American Medical Response and Rural Metro Ambulance, both of which are private ambulance companies.

Madigan Ambulance and West Pierce Fire & Rescue have also provided backup services to the private ambulance companies.  Staffing issues and lack of capacity has led to a reduction of availability from these agencies providing services to DuPont.  None of the above providers are obligated through a paid contract to provide service.

“We must prepare for this reduction in medical transport services and think outside the box. Business as usual won’t cut it,” said Grayum. “It is imperative that we re-direct lower priority resources toward public safety and utilize the people-power of volunteers to provide emergency medical services to keep residents from having to depend upon family and neighbors to take them to the hospital as their only option.”

The DuPont Fire Department does have a licensed BLS medic unit, but it is currently unable to deploy it routinely due to the lack of personnel staffing resources. DuPont Fire Department’s current minimum staffing is three firefighters, all assigned to Engine 25.  However, because of the lack of ambulance transport units available in Pierce County, eight times in the last 90 days, DuPont firefighters have had to transfer a BLS patient using DuPont’s medic unit. When DuPont’s medic unit is transporting, or is waiting 60 minutes for an outside agency to transport a patient, DuPont is left without the firefighter staff to provide emergency medical and fire suppression services for the city.  DuPont has mutual aid agreements with neighboring jurisdictions for fire suppression. However, in order to qualify, the DuPont Fire Department must maintain a suppression unit in the city.

The city is dealing with a number of issues within public safety.  The three firefighters currently funded through a federal SAFER Grant that expires on April 6, 2013 will be let go.  This will reduce minimum staffing from three firefighters on duty to two firefighters at the beginning of April.

According to city records, in the past twelve months there have been just over 300 medical aid responses that resulted in transport to the hospital, and one house fire that resulted in a fire loss of over $100,000.  Total call volume for 2012 will be approximately 800 responses.

Mayor Grayum feels that in order to develop a robust and quality program the DuPont Fire Department will recruit, screen and select a cadre of reserve, volunteer EMTs that will provide BLS intervention and transport capabilities. The Fire Department will provide volunteers with insurance coverage for any workplace injuries or illnesses that may occur as a result of performing normal job duties.  Reserves must meet the Department’s minimum training and qualification standards.

“A reserve program is not a comprehensive solution,” said Grayum. “I urge City Council members, residents and business leaders to clearly define the public safety needs of our community and then work together to make it happen.”

The creation of this new reserve program will provide the City of DuPont time to evaluate the service needs of the community and develop a long-term strategy for public safety. Interested applicants can contact Chief Hull at 253-964-8414 for more information. Program details will soon be available on the City’s website.

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2 Comments

  1. Ed Healy December 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm - 

    Chief Hull has been highlighting our transport exposure for some time. I wish this program well, especially since 80-85% of all calls to the DFD are medical in nature. I just makes sense to put more resources into BLS/transport.

  2. RealDuPont December 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm - 

    I would like to see a published account of how the city plans to recruit, promote, and execute this program. What I do not what to see is the city declare this program a failure as another excuse to come back for a levy increase. You would think the current EMS levy funds (+$500,000/year) would could support some level of service. This is what happens when you allow funds collected from a levy to be diluted into the general fund.

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