Paramedic program approved for firefighters
Merced leaders have paved the way for the city’s fire crews to provide “Advanced Life Support (ALS) interventions for patients during emergencies.
Private ALS units are often called to a scene to provide additional, life-saving care after first responders arrive, but sometimes the wait delays transport to the hospital. Scenarios include situations where patients suffer massive strokes, seizures, and serious trauma.
The new Rescue Paramedic Program will help two currently licensed paramedics in the Fire Department to provide ALS care and service while on duty. It will also create a medical director within the department and increase certification training for firefighters who are also considered Emergency Medical Technicians.
The Merced City Council unanimously approved the program during an update on the department’s Emergency Medical Services at the most recent meeting at City Hall on Sept. 16.
“I think it provides a greater level of care for our citizens,” said City Councilman Kevin Blake while praising the move. “Even if it is just [two firefighters/paramedics], I think it’s a good thing. Hopefully we can expand on it and grow.”
The Fire Department has 57 certified Emergency Medical Technicians on staff, along with the two licensed paramedics. In terms of call volume, 2019 has been the busiest year to date for the department. City Fire has seen an increase of 740 incidents between 2018 and 2019 for an annual total of 6,400 responses to emergency medical situations.
Sixty four percent of the department’s total call volume was directly related to emergency medical incidents as the department strives to provide the highest level of care to the community.
More than 56 percent of the time, firefighters arrive at the scene of an emergency before the ambulance company, and has the ability to administer emergency medical services in hopes of a positive patient outcome.
Costs associated with the program implementation can be absorbed within the department’s current EMS operating budget. Future budget needs over the next three to five years would include a dedicated staff person for EMS/Admin. oversight and training, along with the evaluation of job classification for a “firefighter paramedic.”