Oftentimes during an emergency call in the West Point area, firefighters have to wait on ambulances to arrive to transport patients.
The wait usually is not long, said Bill Fullerton, a battalion chief of the West Point Fire Protection District. Maybe firefighters respond to the call between 10 and 30 minutes before the medical providers. But he estimated that firefighters wait for ambulances 90 percent of the time.
When the call requires advance medical aid, it could get serious. Firefighters are able to provide basic care, but those who need drugs for cardiac episodes or care for anything that serious would have to wait for an ambulance.
It is the current state of emergency medical care in West Point.
After years of 24-hour standby ambulance service in West Point, the service was reduced to 12 hours over the past decade, before it was taken out of the area completely and put in San Andreas a year and a half ago.
The issue erupted last month when a whistleblower from West Point condemned officials after his mother fell and broke her hip in West Point when he was out of town. Ultimately, she had her hip replaced and was recovering days later.
“Her suffering could have been far less if the ambulance arrived before I did,” said Carl Stoughton in an email addressed to all five Calaveras County supervisors as well as several high-ranking staffers on the county’s payroll.
Ambulance relocations are based on call volumes, said Alan McNany, vice president of the American Legion Ambulance company that services the county. The company is constantly moving cars to where they could be used best.
Currently, Fullerton said there are three 24-hour cars and one 12-hour ambulance sprinkled throughout Calaveras. Locations include San Andreas, Valley Springs and Angels Camp, among others. The San Andreas car floats around the county, covering areas that are open because their car may be responding to another incident.
Amador County ambulances can also be called to respond to Calaveras incidents, McNany said. Among them are a Pioneer ambulance and a Sutter Creek vehicle that moves to Pine Grove when the other responders are answering calls.
The current setup breeds efficiency, according to McNany. The current response time requirement for a call that requires lights and sirens is 20 minutes. McNany said they meet the deadline within 90 percent of incidents they respond to, which is a requirement set by the region.
“We’ve never been penalized by late responses,” McNany said.
But it is not as if the car in West Point was not productive. Fullerton said the ambulance was often charged with transporting patients who required further care from the San Andreas hospital locations far outside the county like the Stanford University Medical Center.
And West Point still receives calls. Last year, the fire protection district responded to 550 incidents, Fullerton said. About 70 percent required emergency medical services.
“Our calls are consistently going up,” Fullerton said. “If we had a 24-hour ambulance here all the time, response times would be low.”