Callaway Ambulance Board reviews spike in calls

The Callaway County Ambulance District Board of Directorsmeeting Tuesday night included discussion regarding the district’s increasing call volume — and the number of those calls that end up being non-transportation situations.

Director Charles Anderson reported to the board that the district’s call volume for 2013 was 4,819 — 688 more than in 2012 — with an average daily call volume of 13.2. He also reported a 33 percent no transport rate, which served as a concern for board member John Brandt.

“At Station 1, one-third of our emergency responses resulted in no transport. I’m seeing the same numbers on Station 2 … nearly half of the calls at Station 3 are non-transport,” Brandt said. “My concern is our crews are at some risk getting called out in emergencies … and ending up not even transporting. That sounds like a dispatch problem to me.”

Anderson said the ambulances do not always run “lights and sirens” to a lot of calls, and district employees have discretion, if the call information does not indicate the need — to downgrade to a non-lights-and-sirens response. He also pointed out that a number of the non-transport calls can be attributed to vehicular accident or similar calls where injuries are unknown, but have the potential to be serious.

“With the (Callaway County) fire districts all being volunteer, and all having staffing issues, do we want to rely on the fire departments getting there first and confirming injuries?” Anderson asked.

Brandt said he agreed the district should respond to such calls, but he wondered whether there might be a way to somehow adjust dispatch protocol so that ambulances weren’t being sent out at a high-level emergency response for calls that turn out to not be emergencies after all.

Board member Norman Forman, himself an EMT in Jefferson City, said non-transportation calls have become common in the industry, with many of calls being placed by people on cell phones who are concerned by something they have seen or heard and erroneously believe they are reporting an emergency.

“We deal with that all day, every day,” Forman said. “I think it’s just a trend. Maybe it does merit some monitoring, but I think that’s just the trend anymore.”

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