Fire agencies in Thurston County that provide emergency medical services (EMS) have experienced patient transport delays because of ambulance availability and hospital capacity.
A news release from the county stated the delays occur during peak EMS 911 call times from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The issue is compounded by long emergency room wait times for EMS crews to transfer patients to emergency room staff.
Thurston County EMS responds to more than 36,000 calls to 911 for medical assistance and the call volume continues to increase, stated the release.
“Hospital emergency departments are routinely full which impacts the ability of EMS to transfer patients from ambulances to the emergency department,” stated the release. “Ambulances are often kept at the emergency departments for long durations before a bed becomes available. This backlog delays the ambulances from returning to service and being available for new 911 EMS patients needing to be transported to the emergency departments.”
Medic One is working with 12 fire agencies in the county and two private agencies to create surge capacity through the EMS system. Immediate solutions, according to the release, include improving the efficiency of EMS handoff to the emergency room department, increasing the number of available transport units to the county’s EMS system and streamlining the onboarding process for EMTs who are working to gain affiliation within the county.
Longer term solutions include the creation of policies and procedures that allow EMS to transport patients to local immediate care and urgent care centers, when appropriate. They also include advocating for an expansion to available medical infrastructure within the county and the region, stated the release.
“While Thurston County fire and EMS agencies are preparing to implement all changes to aid in patient transport, the changes will be implemented in escalating steps until ambulance availability and ER transfer times have been addressed,” said Kurt Hardin, the director of Thurston County Emergency Services. “All of the involved agencies are working hard to address the emergent medical needs of Thurston County’s residents and continue to provide these important services.”
More information on the county’s emergency services department can be found online at www.thurstoncountywa.gov.