The contractor evaluating Riverside County’s emergency medical system is constructing several options for the county’s consideration before a new ambulance contract request is completed next year.

“Our goal is to recommend the right resources at the right time for the right patient,” said Mike Williams, president of Abaris Group, who is doing the work.

The Idyllwild Fire Protection District is unlikely to change shape because it is a protected emergency services district since service was provided here prior to the state law’s enactment in 1980.

But the county may have to decide whether to create several ambulance zones or one comprehensive zone. Also, the contractor has been looking at response times throughout the county.

According to Williams, Abaris will likely recommend that the County Emergency Services Agency consider reducing the response time standard from 10 to eight minutes. The lower standard, according to Williams, is the National Faire Protection Association’s recommendation.

The number of ambulance transports in Riverside County is growing faster than the population and is projected to continue to outpace population growth. While the percentage of transports of total EMS calls has been fairly stable for IFPD in the past decade, the actual number of transports is increasing here, too. The 309 transports in 2012 were nearly 40 percent greater than the 218 transports in 2004.

Williams also discussed his findings and observations during several ride-alongs with first responders this spring. One issue that seemed to trouble him much was the time first responders had to spend at hospitals waiting for transportees to be admitted. This is referred to as “off-load delays”.

Not only was Williams assessing the time for patients to be admitted to an emergency department, but he estimated that nearly “44 percent of all emergency department discharges (non-admissions) in Riverside County could be classified as not needing emergency department care.”

Consequently, the final report will also address recommendations to improve assessing an emergency need once a 9-1-1 call is received. This might include response time standards for non-emergency calls. Also criteria to transport some patients directly to specialty hospitals may be proposed.

The recent memorandum of understanding between IFPD and the county’s ambulance service provider, American Medical Response, has increased performance in the Mountain Plateau Zone, Williams noted.