Oklahoma City Fire Department, EMSA Cooperation Expands As Response Time Climbs

Tuesday, September 14th 2021, 10:38 pm
By: Barry Mangold

The partnership between EMSA, Oklahoma City’s ambulance service and the Oklahoma City Fire Department is expanding to help maintain patient care. 

“It’s something different that we're not used to, but overall, I think it’s also going to make for better care for the patients,” said Carl Cobb, OKCFD’s District Chief of EMS. 

EMSA’s average response time for priority 1 and 2 calls rose to 12:02 in July, according to its reports. The ambulance service’s average response time was below 11 minutes from February to June. 

Earlier this year, firefighters began assisting EMSA with the transfer of care to hospitals, otherwise known as bed delays.

Ambulances must wait for a bed to open before dropping off a patient and returning to service. 

Four major Oklahoma City hospital systems have reported having zero staffed intensive care beds available for weeks. 

Jim Winham, CEO of EMSA, said in August, their ambulances waited outside hospitals for a bed to open for a combined 19.5 hours a day. 

“We’re losing ambulances because we can’t unload the patient,” Winham said. 

Cobb said 192 firefighters have signed up to help wait with patients so ambulances can return to service. The firefighters sign up for shifts outside of their normal schedule and are paid by EMSA. 

“We can see the assistance and the help from both sides happening already,” said Jim Winham, CEO of EMSA. 

Bed delays fell between December and June, Winham said. They have, however, climbed in July and August. 

Cobb said 89 firefighters that are qualified as paramedics have signed up to help staff ambulances, as well. Those firefighters began taking shifts in early August. 

“They’ll be in a fire department uniform, but they will be on an EMSA ambulance,” Cobb said. “We really didn’t expect that many to sign up, but I think our personnel knew there was a need.”