Pinellas commissioners approve 3rd phase of medical priority dispatch

6:31 PM, Jan 15, 2013   |    comments
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Pinellas County, Florida -- Pinellas County Commissioners approved a resolution to implement the third phase of Medical Priority Dispatch at its meeting Tuesday.

The resolution was put in the spotlight recently after numerous fire departments voiced opposition towards the measure that they said would restrict response vehicles access to emergency calls.

Local fire department speaks out on Phase 3 of 911 priority dispatch

The latest phase of Medical Priority Dispatch addressed the urgency of calls and the appropriate response given to each one. The county said this latest measure will ensure emergency response vehicles are available for other calls and will improve response times to life-threatening injuries.

However, local fire departments, including Palm Harbor Fire, don't seem to think so and say the residents will deal with longer response times because the new classification of "no priority symptoms" will keep them from responding to calls, even if they are right around the corner.

This is a reduction in service to our citizens," Fire Chief James Angle said before the resolution's passage. "Our top priority is safety, phase 3 of priority dispatch means that if Mrs. Smith who lives across the street from the fire station falls and calls 911 for help, "a not dangerous injury", would lay on the floor for up to 15 minutes before an ambulance arrives. The fire department would not be notified of her emergency."

The county's Emergency Medical System has reportedly followed priority dispatch since 1990, when it adopted the use of emergency medical dispatch guidelines from the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch. Priority dispatch follows a structured protocol to receive 911 calls and dispatch units.

"This system is in use by progressive EMS systems in over 3,000 communities worldwide," said Bruce Moeller, director of Public Safety Services. "Phase three is a part of our ongoing efforts to assure the highest quality medical care to our residents and visitors."

In April 2009, the county implemented the initial phase of the priority dispatch when the emergency medical dispatch function was transferred to the 911 Center. All 911 operators were certified by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch as Emergency Medical Dispatchers.

The second phase, implemented in December 2010, involved the assessment of medical emergency 911 calls to dispatch only fire department units in certain non-emergency situations, when a dual response with multiple emergency vehicles was not appropriate.

With the implementation of the third phase of Medical Priority Dispatch, only an ambulance unit may be dispatched to specified non-emergency medical calls. The dual response from a fire unit and ambulance, as well as lights and sirens, will continue to be used for high-level emergencies.

Each phase has been approved by the Emergency Services Advisory Council and the Medical Control Board.

Pinellas County Government

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