At their Tuesday, Aug. 16 meeting, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors agreed to hold an October workshop on the possibility of revising the county’s emergency medical services dispatch system.

Last month, Supervisor and Board Chair Bob Buster (1st District) recommended that the county evaluate the current system and suggested that several changes be considered.

Not only does Buster believe the changes will improve the delivery of emergency services, but he also believes the costs will fall too. One of the principal recommendations is to limit the number of incidents for which both an ambulance and a fire engine are dispatched.

“A lot of medical emergencies are over-dispatched,” said Humberto Ochoa, M.D., the county’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) medical director.

When asked whether the type of personnel who arrive at a medical emergency or the time to deliver the person to the hospital was more critical, Ochoa did not pause to respond. “Both are critical, but we want the patients to get to our hospitals as quickly as possible,” he said. Christina Bivona-Tellez, Inland Area regional vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, also supported the board’s action to review the current process and examine alternatives that might “deploy resources more efficiently.”

One of the proposed changes would include computer links from 9-1-1 dispatchers directly to American Medical Response, the county private ambulance service contractor. County EMS Director Bruce Barton strongly endorsed this step and County Fire Chief John Hawkins said his department and AMR were already working on it. Both felt this action, if implemented, would lead to better patient survival.

They unanimously agreed to schedule the workshop on the county’s Emergency Medical Services program and contract for Monday morning, Oct. 17.