Sometimes it takes a dialogue between an agency and concerned residents to upgrade a service or improve conditions. The current discourse between the Central California Emergency Medical Services Agency and the Three Rivers community began in earnest at the December 4 town meeting and, if nothing else, there will be more accountability with the providers and the County of Tulare’s Health and Human Services Agency officials.
At the Three Rivers meeting, there was an important discussion with a panel of EMS providers and Dale Dotson, EMS coordinator for CCEMSA. The discussion was prompted by some questionable response times that occurred in Three Rivers during the last six months.
At least two patients died before being transported, one in Trailer Isle and one seven miles out on South Fork Drive. It cannot be stated with certainty if either one of these deaths could have been prevented with a quicker response time.
In 2017, there are some critical factors that are undoubtedly affecting response times. The most important of these is how often the ambulance that serves Three Rivers and the nearby communities of Woodlake, Badger, and Elderwood is staging from its agreed upon waiting area at the Lemon Cove Fire Station, on Highway 198 just west of Lemon Cove.
One of the key questions asked at the December town meeting was how often is the staffed ambulance parked at the Lemon Cove Fire Station? The question was prompted by a recent development where an equipment shortage was causing the rural area ambulance to be routinely stationed at Highways 198 and 65, adding up to 10 minutes to the response time to Three Rivers and other area calls and about eight additional miles to travel.
“My staff has been looking at a method to track actual time that an ambulance has been located at the Lemon Cove station,” Dale Dotson, EMS coordinator wrote in an email. “The computer-aided dispatch system that is used in Tulare County does not measure that, and we are a having a hard time coming up with a method that we feel is giving us accurate information.”
Dotson did provide results from a spreadsheet that showed lost time in emergency room lines, where ambulance staff must wait to discharge patients. Lost time for the months of July, August, and September were equal to 12 days, 10 hours, and 14 minutes per month.
These countywide wait times also contributed to an ambulance being staged on fewer occasions at the Lemon Cove station, Dotson explained.
Dotson also mentioned that Diana Searcy is the citizen advisor on the ambulance committee for the rural zones that contain Three Rivers and Woodlake. Searcy may be contacted for ambulance questions or to register a complaint: 799-4407.