Am. Fork may upgrade emergency services

Articles / Town Hall
Date: Jun 10, 2004 - 12:00 AM
American Fork is considering taking its ambulance service to a new level.

The City Council is weighing a proposal to hire paramedics to staff the service. There are currently 37 members of the ambulance department - 27 are emergency medical technician (EMT) intermediate,

six are EMT basic and five are already paramedics.

Under the proposed system, the city would hire seven part-time paramedics. The new staff would rotate being at the station from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. During the nighttime hours, two medics would be on pagers to answer emergency calls.

"This proposed paramedic/rescue service is a vital component in protecting the safety and welfare of the residents, visitors, business owners and the workers of our community," said Jay Christensen, ambulance captain.

He said one advantage of having the paramedics was better service.

Last year the ambulance personnel responded to 1450 medical calls, with 611 of those of a level where advanced life support (ALS) was needed. Paramedics are permitted to supply ALS, while EMTs are not.

"About 30 to 40 percent of transported patients need some ALS procedure done during patient care," said Christensen. "Having paramedics on scene will provide the highest level possible at this time."

The American Fork Ambulance Department has a contract with American Fork Hospital to provide service when patients are transferred to another facility. When those patients need more care than EMTs can provide, the hospital must call the Lone Peak Public Safety District (the only paramedic agency in the area) to provide that transport. If American Fork had paramedics, the city's department could handle most of those calls.

"Last year Lone Peak transported approximately 150 patients from American Fork Hospital," said Christensen.

Christensen did a cost analysis of the increased service and provided it to the council for future consideration of the proposal.

There would be additional revenue from the service calls as the state allows communities to charge more for paramedic service than for the EMTs. Christensen estimated a $211,000 difference for that, plus nearly $90,000 for the increased transport runs from the hospital.

That would be close to the $330,000 additional wages to the paramedics, offset in part by the current stand-by and per-run pay for the EMTs. Christensen also said there would be approximately $7,000 of additional equipment needed for the ALS service.

A potential savings could result if the full-time EMS captain were a paramedic. That would be nearly $37,000 a year.