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The Plumas County Sheriff’s communications supervisor grabs the dispatch telephone even during a photo opportunity. From left: Steve Waldeck, ambulance operations manager with Eastern Plumas Health Care District; dispatcher Chandlar Peay; Becky Grant, communications supervisor; 21-year dispatch veteran Zoe Stancer; Sheriff Greg Hagwood and deputy Mike Grant. These people have changed the way medical emergency dispatches are handled in the Portola area. Photo by Victoria Metcalf

New partnership speeds up Eastern Plumas dispatch needs

When minutes matter the most, a new partnership between Eastern Plumas Health Care District and the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office dispatch could bring medical assistance more quickly to those living in Eastern Plumas County.

“We’re getting people going as quick as possible,” said Mike Grant, a sheriff’s deputy who has worked on a communications agreement between the two agencies for about five years.

It used to be that the fire department was always getting to the scene of an emergency well before the ambulance, and it was explained to those involved in the new communications agreement gathered together Oct. 25.

Under the old system in the Portola area, one communications system alerted the fire departments required, and a second notified the hospital that an ambulance was necessary. It worked, but it cost valuable time often when time was something no one could afford to waste.

Under the previous system, nurses at EPHCD were responsible for dispatching an ambulance, Mike Grant explained. That included the second ambulance based in Loyalton,

In working out a new system, Grant and those in the Portola area contacted the NorCal Emergency Medical System for Northern California. They came up with a plan similar to the one used in Quincy. Plumas District Hospital hasn’t had nurses dispatching ambulances for a long time.

“Without question it’s made a difference,” said Becky Grant, communications supervisor for the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office.

Steve Waldeck, ambulance operations manager for EPHCD, said that with the new notification system, when they hear the new tone, “we’re moving, especially after hours.”

And the good news is that the new system didn’t cost EPHCD anything. Four new pagers were purchased, but that funding came from equipment expenses, Waldeck said.

The infrastructure was already in place, Becky Grant said.

“We were using it for fire (departments) anyways,” Mike Grant said.

“It helps free up the nurses,” Becky Grant said about another benefit of the new partnership. Nurses should be dedicated to medical work, not listening for an ambulance call. This is especially cumbersome when traveling nurses are part of the staff.

The new system went into effect Aug. 14, Becky Grant said. “There have been no glitches. We’re super excited.”

According to Mike Grant, one medical helicopter can be requested to arrive at a scene. In the past several could be requested and they could arrive, although only one was necessary. He said that duplicate orders could go out when more than one dispatch was used.

Plans are underway that Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority, better known as REMSA, will soon be in the mix. REMSA now serves the Quincy area, said Mike Grant. That would help enormously in dispatching medical information. “We’re not a medical agency,” he explained about the sheriff’s office dispatch.

With medical dispatch involved, those at the scene or in the ambulance traveling to EPHCD or Plumas District Hospital can give and receive more medical information concerning the victim.

Non-duplication of effort is important, said Sheriff Greg Hagwood, as he and Assistant Sheriff Dean Canalia joined the meeting in the sheriff’s office.

The system now improves “communication and accuracy and timeliness,” Hagwood said.

“Time is really the critical factor in saving lives,” Hagwood added.

Hagwood said that there might be some resistance when considering traditions and cultures that originally established the outmoded dispatch plan, but with the new system and partnership, the dispatch system was streamlined.

One thought on “New partnership speeds up Eastern Plumas dispatch needs

  • I am glad to see this finally happening. This should have been in place many years ago. As stated above, “The infrastructure was already in place”, Becky Grant said.
    “We were using it for fire (departments) anyways,” Mike Grant said.
    Good to see the agencies working together!

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