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First responders get there faster

Changes to city's Glendale's emergency services cuts ambulance arrival time by more than one minute.

February 02, 2013|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Fire officials say the expansion of their ambulance services program yielded faster response times in 2012 and is projected to save the city $2.1 million next fiscal year.

The program — which began Jan. 9, 2012, with four basic life-support ambulances working around the clock — saw paramedic response times decrease between five seconds and roughly four minutes among the Fire Department's nine engine companies. Emergency response times improved when paramedics were moved from serving on ambulances to the city's nine engine companies, Battalion Chief Greg Fish said at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

“The sooner we can get to a person that's in a cardiac arrest or having a serious problem, we can administer oxygen; we can administer pharmaceuticals for pain management or for even recovery,” he said. “That's going to make a huge difference in that person's survivability.”

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The average response time for two paramedics to arrive at an incident improved from 5 minutes, 49 seconds under the old emergency medical service model to 4 minutes, 45 seconds with the new program, according to a city report.

The Fire Department's move to boost its ambulance transport program grew out of a need to offset the loss of 21 firefighter positions due to budget constraints.

With the program's expansion, 60 emergency medical technicians had to be hired to work 12-hour shifts to avoid incurring overtime.

Fire officials said they have been focused on reducing costs, continuing emergency medical services to residents and maintaining staffing levels on fire engines.

As a result, Fish said the department has maintained four firefighters on all engine companies as well as providing four EMTs and two paramedics per call.

“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish when we set out to take this [Basic Life Support] program on,” he added.

Meanwhile, costs to run the program dropped from $7.3 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year to $6.84 million for 2012-13. Costs were projected to further decrease to $4.48 million for 2013-14.

At the same time, billing for emergency medical services has increased because the department is handling more calls, Fish said.

Emergency service revenues jumped from $4.74 million in 2010-11 to $5.44 million for 2011-12, according to the city report. While billing revenues have dipped slightly to $5.24 million, fire officials project that figure to increase to $5.52 million for next fiscal year.

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