The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Staff Photo by K.A. Wagoner:
If a new program is approved, county communications officers like Kristi Baker will be trained in providing essential instructions and information when emergency medical calls are received.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
The Franklin County Sheriff's Office wants to beef up the medical expertise of 911 dispatchers.
Capt. Mark Torbert told members of the board of supervisors at a retreat last week that managing emergency medical services starts with the 911 call.
"Because it is an extension of the EMS system, patient care begins when the call is received," he said.
With training, the communication officers can be emergency medical dispatchers (EMD), determining the severity of the patient's condition and providing the appropriate services, Torbert said.
"This enhances the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our EMS system," he said.
Four additional dispatchers would have to be added to the current staff of 14, he said, and they all would be trained on how to use medical guidecards. One supervisor with EMD expertise would be on each shift.
Guidecards take the dispatcher through the appropriate steps.
"The chief complaint is determined by identifying (with use of guidecards) the common signs and symptoms associated with the chief complaint," he said. "This information, coupled with age and history related factors allow the communications officer to determine the correct level of assistance, the urgency and the amount of units to send."
The guidecards also provide medical instructions to the on-scene caller to aid the sick or injured prior to the arrival of EMS personnel, he said.
"This may include making the patient more comfortable, ensuring their safety, giving CPR instructions, assisting in childbirth, or providing instructions that will help prepare for the arrival of responders, such as restraining pets, gathering medications or unlocking doors," Torbert said.
Online training for certification can be provided by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), he said.
One of the requirements for the program is to have a medical director. Dr. Stephen Lane, the county's EMS medical director, has agreed to serve in that capacity, Torbert said.
Total cost of the EMD program would be about $250,000, he said.
Torbert said the dispatch office already has "a great team in place," and adding the EMD service would be an asset for the county.
"This would provide a much higher quality of service to the citizens of Franklin County," he said.
Board Chairman David Cundiff asked why four more dispatchers would be needed, and Torbert said the EMD program means dispatchers would be spending more time on emergency medical calls. And adequate staffing must always be in place.
"The reality is that the length of time that these calls would take is greatly increased due to the fact that the dispatcher would actually be able to stay on the phone with the caller," he said. "It (the call) takes longer and it's more in-depth because they are getting information and giving information. The sooner we can provide directions, the better it is for the victim."
Each shift would have a supervisor who is highly trained in EMD, he said.
"With the decisions that need to be made, it is important to have somebody in there on the floor to make critical decisions as they pop up," he said.
Torbert also said that about half the cost, $113,000, may be recouped from the state Wireless Board, which divvies out money around the state from the 911 surcharge on phone bills. The Wireless Board helps pay the salaries of dispatchers.
The board made no decision on the proposal.