Town prepares new EMS study proposal
With the volunteer Darien EMS Post 53 facing new state-mandated training requirements in coming years, the Board of Selectmen is supporting the inclusion of the more stringent training requirements in an upcoming study of the town’s EMS services performance.
While previous evaluations of the performance of the ambulance corps in town by Stamford Hospital and others has found it operates at a high level, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she wants a more in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the town’s emergency medical response.
“I’d certainly go along with the will of the majority of the board if the objective is to give us a third party view on whether we have what we all consider a best practice EMS provider in Darien,” Stevenson said at Monday’s selectmen meeting.
The town is preparing a second request for proposal for the study. Holdsworth Group, a consultant, withdrew from the study two months ago, citing a lack of clear data and standards to identify inadequacies in response times and the long-standing question of whether the service should staff a paramedic station in town.
In Darien, emergency medical response is furnished by the all-youth volunteer EMS-Post 53, with ambulances manned and driven by Darien High School students trained as EMTs and supplemented by adult supervisors. The post staffs three state-of-the-art ambulances 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
However, the service doesn’t have its own paramedic, and relies on paramedics from Stamford and occasionally Norwalk on a regular basis on more serious calls to start an intravenous drip, Post 53 Executive Director Ron Hammer said.
Two advanced emergency medical technicians are on duty at all times to respond to calls to cover those duties.
Hammer told the board the Department of Public Health is mandating a training change for certification as an advanced emergency medical technician which would increase the amount of necessary classroom time for the certification from about 150 to as many as 400 hours.
Most of the high school volunteers who man the service and adult supervisors will not likely pursue the more extensive training, and will be certified as basic emergency medical technicians. As a result, when the changes become effective in 2018, those volunteers would not be permitted to start an intravenous drip for a patient, Hammer said. That task is typically left to Stamford EMS, Hammer said.
Darien’s emergency response times are within acceptable time frames, according to a report made by the town’s now defunct EMS Review Committee in 2013. In the report, the national average response time was between eight and 12 minutes, while in 1,525 calls to Darien EMS-Post 53 in 2013 the average response time was six minutes and one second, behind Greenwich and Stamford.
From April to June 2015, the unit responded to 372 calls, with the average light and sirens response time being five minutes and 48 seconds, with 130 calls requiring the more advanced skills of a Stamford paramedic. The average paramedic response time was nine minutes and 32 seconds.
Whether Darien should staff a station with a more advanced paramedic has been a recurring issue.
In the May resignation letter, the Holdsworth Group concluded the town had one of the better EMT-manned systems in the state, though there were instances where response times exceeded the nationally recommended nine to 12 minutes. The consultant also said in the letter it couldn’t answer whether there was a lag time between Darien Police fielding 911 medical calls and routing them to CMED, a regional service that coordinates dispatching EMTs, as well as paramedics for more serious calls.
Democratic Selectman E. Reilly Tierney said the planned change in training standards reinforces the need for the study to provide a definitive answer about whether Post 53’s response procedures should change, including settling the question over paramedics.
“After the resignation from the consultant we have to get some answers and I think we all want to see that the town is providing the best level of response for the residents,” Tierney said.