A Delay In Care…

Friday, November 19, 2010

In April, Anchorage taxpayers voted to add an ambulance to Station 7, located in Sand Lake. The bond measure included the purchase of the actual apparatus, as well as an increase in the Tax Cap to pay for the annual maintenance and staffing.

Anchorage’s currently operates under a system-wide emergency response model. What this means is although an apparatus may be stationed in one part of town, it can be dispatched to an adjacent area, or in the event of high volume, all the way across Anchorage. The addition of another ambulance to the Anchorage Fire Department system will alleviate the pressure on all of the existing ambulances by keeping them in their home areas more often, cutting response and transport times for all Anchorage residents, including Eagle River.

When voters passed the Medic 7 Bond, an additional ambulance in South Anchorage was already several years overdue. Call volume in the Sand Lake area was increasing at an annual rate of 4%, and that workload was being managed by the 7 AFD ambulances currently housed at other Anchorage fire stations, with the majority of those calls being handled by ambulances coming from the Spenard and Dimond Fire Stations. Unfortunately for residents of Sand Lake, those two ambulances are already being utilized on other calls at least 25% of the time. This means that there are times when the nearest ambulance may get dispatched from Midtown or Huffman, or in some occasions, Downtown or even Airport Heights. Although the Engine Company from Station 7 may be able to begin initial treatment and intervention, in cardiac arrests and stroke emergencies, “time is tissue,” and residents of Sand Lake will wait longer for transport to area hospitals. The additional 6-10 minutes that there is a delay in transport could have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.

One of the main findings of the Anchorage Community Conversations was that Anchorage residents expressed “strong support for maintaining – and if possible expanding-some essential services, especially Fire Protection…(after efficiency measures are put in place)…”

Ironically, the Mayor’s own “Performance Value Results” fact sheet shows that the Anchorage Fire Department appears to be improving in every measurable category. Most pertinent to the Medic 7 issue is that our cardiac save rate is over 40%, when the national average is around 23%. When trying to identify efficiencies within the AFD, it is hard to believe that refusing to open an ambulance (that Anchorage taxpayers voted to open, no less) that will improve response times to 20% of Anchorage residents is smart policy.
At this point in time, Medic 7 is not included in the 2011 budget. In Assembly work-sessions, Fire Chief Mark Hall stated that the ambulance may be added during 1st Quarter budget revisions, but there is no guarantee. Whatever spin is put on this issue, the bottom line is this: Anchorage taxpayers deserve to have the service that they voted for, and they will not be getting it

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