There are systemic problems with the EMS System and recognition must first be given to the fact that providers nationwide are struggling to attract Paramedics and to staff enough ambulances to provide consistent service within their response districts. Through mutual aid agreements when one ambulance provider does not have an ambulance available, they will request the next closest ambulance to the area to fill the need for service. This will then leave that ambulance’s area short staffed and the process continues until the system is able to return to normal operation when requests for service fall within operational abilities.
Patterson District ambulance will staff two to three ambulances for their service area. This area goes from Maze Blvd to the North (Highway 132), Crows Landing Road to the East, the community of Crows Landing to the South (Find Rd.), and the Santa Clara County Line to the West (Del Puerto Canyon and Diablo Grande). This is a large response area! However, regularly Modesto, Newman, and Merced County (Riggs Ambulance) request mutual aid from Patterson District Ambulance. This will remove an ambulance from the Patterson response area and leave Patterson District Ambulance down an ambulance while they fulfill the mutual aid request.
With no hospital in the community of Patterson, Patterson District Ambulance must transport patients to Turlock, Modesto, or Tracy with tranport times of 30-45 minutes. Once at the hospital, they must transfer care of the patient to the hospital which can take 20-40 minutes. Then they must make the 30-45 minute drive back to Patterson. For every call, that ambulance is committed outside of Patterson for between 1 hour 20 minutes to over 2 hours.
This system can leave Patterson without a transporting ambulance. When this happens an ambulance will come from the closest available ambulance provider which can be West Side Ambulance (Newman), Riggs Ambulance (Merced County), Tracy (AMR), Turlock (AMR), or Modesto (AMR). There have been times when Patterson District Ambulance has responded from the hospital, in either Modesto or Turlock, to Patterson for a call for service.
Seeing this potential and trying to provide the best level of care to the citizens of Patterson, Patterson Fire Department began hiring Firefighter/Paramedics to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS) to the citizens of Patterson. When no ambulances are in town, this allows us to provide the highest level of care until a transporting ambulance can arrive. When an ambulance is in town, we are often the first ones to arrive on scene and we can immediately begin ALS care to the patient.
This program is done with the Patterson District Ambulance in a cooperative manner for the benefit of the citizens of Patterson. This program has saved lives and is a worthwhile program to the community of Patterson. You will see the IAFF Local 4577 fight to continue this level of care with the best staffing model for service delivery. More on this in Part 8.