Half of runs are transfers
Nearly half of all ambulance runs in Marion County involve transfers from one health care institution to another.
That trend and others were uncovered in detailed analysis by the Record of emergency dispatches since May 1.
Initial trips to a hospital from the scene of an accident, illness, or injury accounted for a slim majority of all runs — 53.3%.
Transfers from hospitals inside the county to hospitals outside the county accounted for almost a third of all runs — 32.1%.
Although such trips typically involve less time evaluating and stabilizing a patient at the scene, they can include an extra hour or two — sometimes more — of round-trip travel time when the ambulance isn’t available for emergencies inside the county.
Transfers from nursing homes to hospitals — often outside the county — accounted for 14.6% of runs.
Among all calls monitored since May 1, a total of 27.1% resulted in no patient being transported.
These were false alarms, citizens who merely needed help getting up after falls, or patients who decided their medical problems didn’t warrant the expense of a trip by ambulance. For the most part, patients are charged only if they are transported to a hospital.
“No transport” calls weren’t counted as “runs” in the Record’s analysis. If they had been, they would have outnumbered hospital-to-hospital transfers by sizeable margin.
During the time period examined, Marion County ambulances responded to a average of 3.7 calls per day. There was no typical duration of a call. Calls took as little as half an hour to as much as several hours.
Included were an average of:
- 1.4 calls per day for accidents, injuries, or illnesses resulting in a trip to a hospital.
- 1.0 calls per day that didn’t result in transporting a patient.
- 0.9 transfers per day from in-county hospitals to out-of-county hospitals.
- 0.4 transfers per day from nursing homes to hospitals, some in the county and some outside it.
A delayed transfer could occur, on average, less than once a day. Marion County was 1½ times more likely to arrest and send to jail a new inmate during the same time period.
While it is impossible to determine for certain how many transfers might have been delayed because another ambulance already was out of the county, evidence of two such cases did emerge.
In both cases, the transfers were done on a non-emergency basis, without red lights and sirens.
On the other hand, there was evidence of at least one situation in which multiple ambulances were out of the county at the same time, all tending to emergency transports or transfers.
A case of a cardiac patient May 10 has been cited as a example of the need to change policies regarding whether multiple ambulances can be out of the county at the same time.
The case involved is, however, not an example of that situation.
According to the Record’s analysis of emergency dispatches, the transfer from St. Luke Hospital, Marion, to NMC Health, formerly Newton Medical Center, was the only run involving any county ambulance during a 16½-hour period.
There was one other call during that period — 7½ hours earlier — but it went to a different ambulance and was canceled even before the ambulance arrived.
According to recorded dispatches, a request from the state’s clearing house for ambulance transfers was relayed by dispatchers at 12:19 a.m., the ambulance acknowledged the page, reached St. Luke 10 minutes later, and left with the patient six minutes after that.
The transfer was performed as a non-emegency, without red light and sirens. The ambulance arrived in Newton less than one hour after the initial call and was back in its station at 2:09 a.m.
The next call for any ambulance in the county was for another non-emergency transfer from St. Luke to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center at 7:27 a.m.
That patient may have been awaiting transfer when the cardiac patient was transferred. However, the transfer was not dispatched until nearly 5½ hours after the cardiac transfer was concluded.
Last modified June 22, 2022