By LESLIE COLLINS
January 9, 2013
Although the Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) has implemented several new initiatives to improve ambulance response times, there’s still room for improvement.
During a recent Public Safety and Emergency Services Committee meeting, KCFD presented ambulance response time statistics for November.
Kansas City is divided into four ambulance response districts (ARD): ARD 1 (Northland); ARD 2 (Central); ARD 3 (East side); and ARD 4 (South side). In each ambulance district, city code requires that ambulances respond to life threatening emergencies in 9 minutes or less 85 percent of the time.
In November, KCFD improved in two ambulance districts, ARD 2 and ARD 3, but performed worse in the other two. In November, ARD 1 met the 9 minute goal 68.01 percent of the time; ARD 2, 90.49 percent; ARD 3, 82.64 percent; and ARD 4, 70.49 percent. In comparison, during the month of October ARD 1 met the goal 71.3 percent of the time; ARD 2, 86.4 percent; ARD 3, 80.3 percent; and ARD 4, 76.8 percent. The three-month average, from September to November, for each ambulance district was ARD 1, 66.83 percent; ARD 2, 86 percent; ARD 3, 79.42 percent; and ARD 4, 69.83 percent.
“I think that shows how we still have a concentration of fire stations in the central part of the city and still have a few gaps in the periphery,” Public Safety Committee Chair John Sharp said.
KCFD Chief Paul Berardi said he agreed.
Looking at the numbers citywide revealed greater improvement. City code requires that ambulance crews respond to life threatening emergencies citywide in 9 minutes or less 90 percent of the time. From August to October, the fire department met that goal 68 percent of the time. From September to November, that number increased to 77.6 percent.
Public Safety Committee member Jermaine Reed commended KCFD for logging improvements citywide, but added he’s concerned about the outliers.
Ambulance responses that fell outside the 9 minute mark ranged from 9 minutes, 40 seconds to 17 minutes, 3 seconds.
“Many times there is a reason those outliers are there,” Berardi said.
To review those outliers, KCFD recently filled a full-time quality assurance position. The quality assurance employee will review reports to make sure the time stamps are correct, determine what caused the outliers and ensure that protocol was followed at the dispatching center, Berardi said.
Also aiding the fire department is a Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) pilot project implemented in November. Prior to the pilot project, the city’s detention center located at police headquarters operated 24/7 without an onsite medical facility. As a result, KCFD had to respond to calls to perform blood sugar tests and for someone feeling ill.
Each time KCFD responds to the detention center, it ties up an ambulance for about an hour-and-a-half, Berardi said.
“We are the fire department’s No. 1 call for service for their ambulance care,” KCPD Captain Eric Winebrenner said during a previous meeting.
To reduce the dependence on KCFD for medical services, KCPD is utilizing Jackson County’s contract with a medical services provider for inmates. The medical provider is working at the city’s detention center six hours a day, seven days a week. The contract also includes four on-call requests per day.
“During a one-month period, we’ve dropped our call load to that location by two-thirds,” Berardi said.
From Oct. 17 to Nov. 16, KCFD responded to 104 calls at the detention center. From Nov. 17 to Dec. 16, KCFD responded to 30 calls.
“That’s a significant amount of savings and allows us to use that deployment in other parts of the city and has been done,” Berardi said.
When Public Safety Committee member Michael Brooks pressed about improving response times in the Northland, Berardi said that will require short-term, mid-term and long-range plans.
There’s “not one silver bullet,” Berardi said. KCFD is continuing to study the Northland, he said, and one immediate improvement will result from changes in KCFD’s continuing education courses.
Every emergency medical technician and paramedic is required to attend 72 hours of continuing education during a two-year period, said Deputy Chief Tom Collins. During the past, KCFD would take ambulances out of service, so the crew could attend training. That meant an ambulance would be out of service an average of five hours, he said. Instead of taking ambulances off the street, KCFD will now relieve employees from their shifts to attend training and backfill the positions.
“This is going to have a very large impact on the way we administer our emergency services,” Collins said.
Ambulance Response Times by District
City code requires ambulances respond to life threatening emergencies in 9 minutes or less 85 percent of the time in each ambulance response district.
ARD 1 (Northland)- 95 percent of time goal met
ARD 2 (Central)- 97.8 percent
ARD 3 (East side)- 94 percent
ARD 4 (South side)- 92.7 percent
ARD 1 (Northland)- 68 percent of time goal met
ARD 2 (Central)- 90.4 percent
ARD 3 (East side)- 82.6 percent
ARD 4 (South side)- 70.4 percent
Citywide Ambulance Response Times
For citywide response times, city code requires that ambulance crews respond to life threatening emergencies in 9 minutes or less 90 percent of the time.
November 2011 – 93.6 percent of time goal met
November 2012 – 79.7 percent