East Pierce Fire and Rescue welcomed National Emergency Medical Services Week by giving its annual report on the EMS division of the department.
Assistant Chief Russ McCallion presented the report to the department’s commissioners during their regularly scheduled meeting on May 17.
The report is part of the overall annual report the fire department publishes every year to document overall call volume, EMS call volume, revenue and billing service updates and department accomplishments during the last calendar year.
The Annual Report is published online at eastpiercefire.org.
Increase in calls strain EMS
According to the 2016 EMS division report, East Pierce Fire and Rescue responded to a total of 9,825 calls in 2015.
This is a 5.2 percent increase over the number of calls the department responded to in 2014.
The vast majority of those calls – 7,085 of them – were EMS specific, which means EMS was called an average of 19.4 times a day.
This is a 2.8 percent increase in EMS calls compared to 2014.
McCallion and the EMS division expect the EMS call volume to continue increasing in the near future due to a number of factors.
One of the big reasons why East Pierce may see a jump in local EMS calls is because of the new assisted living centers and dementia care centers in the department’s district.
According to McCallion, the average assisted living care resident is responsible for approximately one-and-a-half 911 calls per year, and the average dementia care patient is responsible for two 911 calls per year.
In total, McCallion estimates these new centers will add around 400 EMS calls a year by 2017.
Several national trends are also causing a rise in 911 call volume across the country.
McCallion told the commissioners the baby boomer generation is aging and approximately 10,000 turn 65 every day in the country.
With this aging population comes more people eligible for Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act further increases the number of people who have health insurance, particularly those who are covered by Medicaid, McCallion said.
However, a shortage of doctors on a national level is causing more people to call 911 instead of waiting for care. Additionally, doctors no longer receive incentives to treat patients covered by Medicaid, and some refuse to see patients with Medicaid because of low reimbursements rates, the report states.
With more people covered by health insurance but unable to see doctors, they instead turn to 911 and emergency rooms for care, leading to a stressed EMS system and ER overcrowding, McCallion said.
Not all the news in the annual EMS report was negative.
According to McCallion, CPR patient survival rates have more than quadrupled in the last five years.
Between 2006 and 2010, the survival rate of CPR patients hung around 10 percent. There were five CPR survivors in those five years.
But the survival rate has improved to 43 percent between 2011 and 2015, McCallion said at the meeting. There were 26 CPR survivors in those five years.
Part of this success is due in part to citizen CPR training, in which East Pierce engages more than 2,000 citizens every year, resulting in a 56 percent bystander CPR rate, which is twice the national average.
In 2015, the department received an American Heart Association Mission Lifeline – Silver Award for its efforts in implementing cardiac alert system with local hospitals, which reduced the time it took for patients to be treated at hospitals for cardiac arrest.
East Pierce was one of four departments in the state to receive the Silver Award.
More recently, the department received the American Heart Association’s Lifeline EMS Gold Award on May 20, for retaining the department’s improved procedures that reduce the time it takes for cardiac arrest patients to receive care for two years.
East Pierce is also one of two departments in the state to receive federal funds to study best practices regarding stroke response and treatment.
The EMS Levy Lid Lift allows East Pierce Fire and Rescue to increase property taxes to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for 2017. Not by 50 cents as stated in the May 4 Courier-Herald article.