By Steve Abbott
North County Fire Protection District 

Fire Chief's Report – Hospital closure has had major impact on fire

 

Last updated 10/29/2018 at 7:09pm

North County Fire Protection District

As we are approaching the four-year mark since the closure of Fallbrook Hospital, we would like to share with our community the impact that closure has had upon our fire department.

As many of you may know, North County Fire is your provider of fire and emergency medical services and has operated a paramedic program since 1990. This was a huge step for our department in that it increased its workforce and budget by 25 percent. With the closure of the hospital in December 2014, we have seen the number of emergency calls dramatically increase.

As seen in the table below, we have seen a 29 percent increase alone since the hospital closure. What this translates to is longer response times as our ambulances must travel two-to-three times the distance to an out of town hospital and spend generally three times as long to become available for another call within our community.

Moreover, with each 5 percent increase in call volume we see a corresponding increase in the number of overlapping or simultaneous calls, which means that our citizens must wait for an ambulance to travel across town from another station as the first ambulance is already committed to another call.


This is but one of the many reasons why we staff each of our fire engines with paramedics as well – so we can begin to administer advanced life support prior to the arrival of an ambulance. We had originally responded to this challenge by obtaining a two-year FEMA "SAFER" grant for staffing an additional (third) ambulance.

When the "SAFER" grant expired, however, we had to create new internal efficiencies to maintain this third ambulance in our system. This was accomplished by reclassifying our ambulance personnel to "single role" paramedics and EMTs, which are not trained or used as firefighters. We also receive "automatic aid" paramedic ambulances from neighboring jurisdictions, which allows us to continue to meet our customer service demands.

 

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