Thurston County is prepared to implement surge capacity, if needed.
OLYMPIA – Thurston County Fire Agencies providing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Thurston County are experiencing patient transport delays related to ambulance availability and hospital capacity. The transport delays occurring during peak EMS 911 call times (10:00am to 8:00pm), are compounded by long emergency room wait times for EMS crews to transfer the patient to emergency room staff.
Thurston County EMS responds to more than 36,000 911 calls a year for medical assistance and are continuing to see an increase in call volume. Hospital emergency departments are routinely full which impacts the ability of EMS to transfer patients from ambulances to the emergency department. Ambulances are often kept at the emergency departments for long durations before a bed becomes available. This backlog delays the ambulances from returning to service and being available for new 911 EMS patients needing to be transported to the emergency departments.
Medic One is working with the 12 Thurston County fire agencies and two private agencies to create surge capacity throughout the EMS system. Immediate solutions include improving the efficiency of EMS handoff to the ER, increasing the number of available transport units in the Thurston County EMS system, and streamlining the onboarding process for EMTs to gain affiliation in Thurston County. Longer term solutions include the creation of policies and procedures allowing for EMS to transport appropriate patients to local immediate cares and urgent cares (where appropriate) and advocating for expanding available medical infrastructure within the county and region.
Thurston County Emergency Services Director Kurt Hardin said, “While Thurston County fire and EMS agencies are preparing to implement all changes to aid in patient transport, the changes will be implemented in escalating steps until ambulance availability and ER transfer times have been addressed. All of the involved agencies are working hard to address the emergent medical needs of Thurston County’s residents and continue to provide these important services.”