County 911 is healthy, roads in state of emergency

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The city’s rising popularity as a destination for farm to table food and drink comes with declining risk—it is also becoming the place to have a medical emergency.

Yolo County took a unified approach to emergency medicine beginning in July 2013, which included the placing of a dedicated ambulance in the city, shattering previous response times from Sacramento Valley Ambulance, which responded to emergencies in Winters from the other side of the Causeway. Kristin Weivoda, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) administrator for the county presented the progress and goals of the Yolo Emergency Medical Services Agency (YEMSA) at the city council meeting of Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Response times for EMS responders are meticulously recorded in order to collect data to continue to speed up processes for time-sensitive calls for events like strokes and heart attacks. Before the integration of the city into the county EMS model, outcomes for these issues were significantly worse; too much time passed before patients could receive the care they needed.

“In 2011 the response time was 20 minutes under Sacramento Valley Ambulance,” said City Manager John Donlevy.

“When I came here in 2001, if you had a heart attack, you were dead, it’s literally a miracle,” he said.

The average response time for the city is now about four minutes and 30 seconds.

According to Weivoda, the county has now been recognized twice by the American Heart Association for success in responding to heart attacks. The county exceeds expectations for over 70 percent of these calls.

“Cardiac arrests are one of the hardest things to master in the field,” added Weivoda.

The national average survival rate for a 911 response to a heart attack to admission in a hospital is 21 percent, which the county tops with a 27 percent survival rate.

Strokes in the county tell a similar story. Emergency responders are able to help get victims to a computed tomography (CT) scan in 11 minutes, less than half of the national average of 25 minutes.

Looking forward, county EMS will align with mental health services to help get those with a mental health emergency to the right care they need without subjecting the patient and hospital staff with an unnecessary Emergency Room (ER) visit.

Keeping patients who are on palliative care from being readmitted to hospitals is also on the county EMS agenda. Measures on both fronts help save ER space for helpful, live-saving interventions.

Inspection fees, the contract with ambulance provider American Medical Response (AMR) and penalty fees all fund YEMSA. Every time AMR misses the mark on a rapid response, they pay the county.

“They are penalized for every late call, and we reinvest that back into the system,” said Weivoda.

Another goal of the organization is to be self-sustaining without dipping into the county’s general fund. This keeps the service consistent and able to continue innovating emergency response through the challenges of a rural setting with incidents occurring far from hospitals.

“It is really a thrill to see what people are doing,” said Donlevy, “Whether someone has a heart attack in the city of Sacramento or on a country property, it’s the same heart attack.”

Residents can assist county EMS personnel by downloading the PulsePoint app. The app alerts bystanders certified to perform Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation within 300 feet of a heart attack so there is no delay for intervention. Every minute the victim waits for CPR, survival odds drop by 7-10 percent.


Transportation Capital Improvement Plan

Mike Luken and Terry Bassett from the Yolo County Transportation District also presented to the council, with a less positive prognosis for road health throughout the county.

The capital improvement plan they have been presenting to governing bodies around the county shows a 20-year schedule for addressing transportation issues.

The county needs $1.42 billion dollars to make the improvements, and the transportation district recommends funding this with a new sales tax. If the county attempts to fund the plan without state help, the state will also give the county a “self-help” allowance toward making the dream of smooth roads a reality.

Council Member Harold Anderson was concerned that if Winters saw funding for road maintenance only from the sales tax collected in the city it would not be substantial enough because of the smaller tax base.

“If we decide to tax everybody, how does it get divided up?” he asked.

According to Donlevy, the funds would be divided relating to population.

Council member Bill Biasi urged the district to look at road repair foremost, before adding other aspects like light rails.

“We need to take care of the roads we already have,” said Biasi.

“It’s a desperate situation for the county,” agreed Luken.

The council has until the first week of March to give comments on the plan to the transportation district before the plan goes through more official votes at the county board of supervisors level.


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