New procedures for dispatching emergency crews has some Kansas City Council members concerned. Kansas City Fire Department officials said they are saving resources and money.
"It's basically added a minute to the time it takes to dispatch an ambulance to a medical emergency," said Councilman John Sharp, one of those most concerned about the issue.
Fire officials admit they need to improve response times in the Northland.
Wednesday's discussion came in the wake of an audit released last month.
"The audit firmly establishes that there has been no decrease in response time attributable to the EMS consolidation of April 2010," according to a statement from the fire department.
This is regarding the fire department taking over ambulance operations from MAST, a private company.
However, the auditor's office drew a different conclusion.
"Ambulance response times reported by MAST and KCFD cannot be compared because contract provisions and city code allowed MAST to exclude certain calls from their response time calculations," according to the performance audit released on Oct. 10.
Instead, the auditor's office compared response times for life-threatening incidents.
"Based on our calculations, MAST's and KCFD's ambulance response time performance was similar and relatively stable between May 2008 and November 2011," according to the audit. "Following a change in dispatch protocols in December 2011, KCFD's ambulance response time performance declined as response times increased about one minute."
The change is because dispatchers are asking more questions and getting answers before dispatching first responders. Previously, dispatchers began rolling first responders as soon as an address was confirmed.
"When you have resources that are available to respond: EMS, fire, rescue hazmat; and the only thing you react to is an address, how do you know what to send? Do you send a pumper? A truck? A tanker?" asked Sal Monteleone, deputy fire chief for operations.
The fire department issued a statement before the council discussion.
"The change in call processing was a considered policy decision to fully implement the call processing standards of the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch. This system, developed and under constant refinement, is the industry standard for EMS dispatching and is used in most jurisdiction in the United States," the fire department said in a statement. "Its intent is to ensure that EMS agencies are able to accurately discern the caller's problem and get the right combination of resources to the scene as efficiently and effectively as possible."
Some council members believe arrival times in the Northland have particularly increased since KCFD took over ambulance services.
"We are happy with the audit," said Acting Fire Chief Paul Berardi.
However, he said he wants to see improvements, particularly in the response times in the Northland.
"We are never satisfied with where we are," he said.
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