I look at our Volunteer Fire Department and see just how lucky we are to have our district hospital just ten miles away. Recently, the hospital has been going through rough times financially. There has been scares of the hospital laying off employees, shutting down clinics, or the worse… shutting down entirely. We would be in a world of hurt if they did.
Being a small, rural fire department running about 150 calls a year, 80% of which are medical. This would be detrimental to our operations. Our area has a lot of second homes, retired folks and a lot of tourists who come from all around the world for our extreme outdoor sports our area offers. Being located an hour away from any major hospital (Reno, NV or Truckee, CA) our local hospital is clutch for us to send our patients. Not to mention, the hospital provides us with the ambulance and transport services. Thus being another huge component because not every medical call do we have a volunteer firefighter responding who is an ALS provider. When we get dispatched for a call, they are dispatched with us. As a BLS responder (EMT), it is a good feeling when you are in a rough situation to know that ALS and help is on its way.
With pre hospital emergency care we talk about the golden hour. The golden hour is a statistic that shows how important it is to have your patient seek immediate care in an ER within an hour. If failed to get the victim to an ER after a traumatic incident, the chances of survival for the victim drop significantly. If our hospital was not there for us, we as a department would have to restructure our department and it wouldn’t be for the better.
First off, imagine how long it would take for us to receive an ambulance from either Reno, Truckee or Quincy. Quincy being another district hospital 30 min. away would mean an hour in just driving time and even worse two hours of driving time for an ambulance from Reno or Truckee. The golden hour is not looking good for us. Not to mention it would kill our departments moral. Volunteers would stop responding because they know that if they do respond, they would be on the call forever and miss work, having their bosses mad at them. Another option people have brought up is to become a transport agency.
Looking into becoming a transport agency would not be feasible. Having volunteers who would have enough time to respond and then transport the patient would take three hours of their day. Compensation would be needed, no way could that happen, let alone afford to buy an ambulance. Not mention breaking a second call, or having multiple calls in one day would drain the volunteers who actually had the time to transport. Our costs would dramatically rise and would be passed onto the consumer, yet they are no closer to an ER. The departments insurance rate would spike and licensing our firefighters to all be certified to drive an ambulance would be a nightmare (licensing to drive fire engines already is) and take away from our actual fire trainings.
Ultimately the only way for us to succeed is for our local hospital to succeed. So support them. They already have a hard enough time keeping up and affording new technology, doctors and equipment let alone being one of the areas biggest employers. Without them our fire district and region as a whole wouldn’t be the same.