Why Emergency Response Times Have Slowed in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nine minutes. That’s the magic number. It’s the time it should take from when you call for an ambulance to when paramedics should arrive at your door. But a new audit reveals those response times are getting slower.
A report released on Wednesday showed in November 2011 ambulances arrived at a scene nine minutes or less 84 percent of the time. More recent statistics show that number dropped to 75 percent of the time.
The reason, according to the report, is a nationwide change in dispatch protocol.
In December 2011, protocol changed, requiring dispatchers to get additional information from callers. Before the protocol change, the dispatcher sent the ambulance to the scene within 28 to 34 seconds. But now, dispatchers are asking for more information so they can send the right crews. Response times have slowed by about minute.
Fire officials said another reason for slower response time is that the number of emergency calls they’ve received over the past couple years has doubled. With many people out of work and without health insurance, many people are calling 911 when they become sick, figuring they won’t have to pay for it. By sending a fire truck and an ambulance to those scenes, paramedics can’t properly respond to a life-threatening emergency. That is why calls are screened more closely, taking more time.
The auditor’s report indicates something needs to be done, and they are asking the new fire chief to make changes to protocols to speed up response times.
One solution fire officials may implement is to have a paramedic on fire trucks with them. That way they can send a fire truck right away to a health emergency, keeping the ambulances free for the more serious calls.
The fire department assumed responsibility of the Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust (MAST) in April 2010.