Lathrop Manteca Fire District Chief Gene Neely wants his agency to incorporate advanced life support into the service it provides to South County residents.
And he’s hoping that a bill signed into law by the Governor in October and set to be in effect in January will help him achieve the longstanding goal of putting paramedics on every fire engine and allowing them to provide a higher level of emergency care on every single call that the district responds to.
“We currently have EMTs that provide basic life support on every call, but when it comes to something like full cardiac arrest time is of the essence and there are things that a paramedic can do that can improve the odds of a favorable outcome for the patient,” Neely said. “Whether that’s pushing drugs or pushing a tube or starting an IV, those seconds are critical, and I believe that it’s something that we should be able to provide our residents.”
Currently only three cities in San Joaquin County provide advanced life support services through the fire department – both Stockton and Tracy have the directives to carry out ALS without providing transport to a hospital while Ripon Consolidated Fire District maintains its own ambulance service independent of the county contract with American Medical Response.
Neely reiterated that his push for the additional scope of practice doesn’t have anything to do with the company designated to provide ALS in the community right now – Manteca District Ambulance has long provided paramedic services to the community, and is one of only two agencies permitted to continue providing ALS support even after San Joaquin County contracted with AMR to provide the service county-wide – but rather ensuring that patients that may need the additional level of care in an emergency are able to receive it.
The law, SB 438, amends sections of California’s government code and adds sections pertaining to the dispatching of emergency services and the administration of advanced life support programs in a given jurisdiction. Currently in San Joaquin County ALS programs are approved and overseen by the San Joaquin County EMS Agency, but the new law gives public safety agencies the ability to apply for permission to carry out those services and receive a response within 90 days of submission.
Initially Neely was hoping that he would be able to have the program up and running by February 1 but noted that depending on how negotiations go with San Joaquin County he may have to wait until after the first of the year to submit a formal request to start the 90-day countdown for approval or denial. According to Neely, he has already lined up a medical doctor to oversee Lathrop Manteca’s program and coordinated with a pharmacy that will maintain all the necessary medications required.
After that, it will simply be a matter of hiring additional firefighters that are certified as paramedics and installing lock-boxes on the district’s engines for safe storage of the medications that paramedics are allowed to administer.
And the program, Neely said, won’t be dependent on recuperating costs associated with providing the service.
As the city grows and more tax revenue is generated from Measure C – the one cent sales tax increase that voters approved in 2012, 40 percent of which is earmarked for the Lathrop Manteca Fire District – Neely said that programs such as the one he is proposing are economically feasible even if outside reimbursement is never seen.
The agency already has several certified paramedics on crews throughout the district, but Neely said that they are not currently authorized to provide advanced life support. If permission is granted for his proposal, he would have to hire additional personnel which can be funded through the proceeds of Measure C.
At the end of the day, he said, it’s about providing the same level of care for his residents that he would want to provide for his family.
“This is something that I’m passionate about,” Neely said. “This is where I live – if my wife or my children needed advanced life support I would want the first people to respond to be able to administer that and I think that it’s something that everybody in this community would want for their loved ones.”
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