New fire marshal bolsters plan to reduce response time to medical emergencies

Newly-appointed Chicago Fire Marshal is beefing up her plan to reduce response times to medical emergencies which now account for two-thirds of all firefighter calls.

Instead of augmenting the Chicago Fire Department’s existing fleet of 80 advanced survival ambulances, Annette Nance-Holt plans to purchase smaller vehicles, each consisting of two paramedics, to respond to less serious medical calls that do not require transport to a hospital.

The new level of care that Nance-Holt calls “integrated mHealth” would not only reduce the avalanche of calls to Chicago’s 911 emergency system, but also take the pressure off hospital emergency rooms and free those people up. 80 ambulances – backed by Advanced Life Support Engines and Trucks (ALS) – for more serious emergencies.

“I was a captain on an ALS engine. I have worked in many ALS companies as a lieutenant. What you find out is that sometimes people just want someone to come [and] take your blood sugar. Take your blood pressure. Give yourself treatment for asthma. It doesn’t matter what it is. They don’t want to go to the hospital, ”Nance-Holt told The Sun-Times Thursday.

“It will keep emergency rooms less clogged up. And don’t block the transport of an SLA ambulance that actually needs to get to a person. Maybe a shot [victim]. Maybe a stab [victim]. Or maybe someone is having a heart attack, which is more critical at this point. “

The new medical model is very similar to the two-tier system of ambulance service – for advanced life support and basic life support – that Chicago abandoned years ago.

It was tested during the pandemic, when paramedics attended the homes of Chicagoans who had contracted the coronavirus but did not require hospitalization or were discharged from the hospital.

It was also used to perform welfare checks “when we had a lot of cops and lay-ups due to COVID, because COVID hit us as well,” Nance-Holt said.

Most patients will be referred by their doctor or clinic.

“Someone who could be diabetic. Someone with congestive heart failure who just needs to be checked to see if they have fluid. Things like that. But anything that is life threatening, 911 will be that number you call to be transported, ”said the commissioner.

“We have an aging population… During COVID, we could see more than ever that people did not want to leave their homes. They couldn’t get to hospitals… It will take the strain off insurance companies, emergency rooms, health systems and divert our ambulances to more critical people.

The alternate response will begin with five vehicles and 10 paramedics.

“It’s going to spread to other things – like mental health issues and, possibly, the opioid crisis,” the commissioner said.

“Now we’ll tell you five [vehicles]. But I predict it’s going to be bigger than that.

Nance-Holt is the first woman to hold the post of Fire Marshal in the Department’s 162-year history.

She is committed to diversifying a department with a long documented history of discrimination through “vigorous recruitment from communities of color”, outreach to high school students in “underrepresented communities” and by scheduling the first exam. Chicago Fire Department entry since 2014 by the end. this year or the first quarter of next year.

On Thursday, she took the first step towards this goal.

She promoted Mary Sheridan, the head of EMS, to be her first assistant and supplemented her management team with five men: two black, two white and one Hispanic.

This is Marc Ferman to occupy the position of Assistant Fire Marshal for Operations; Juan Hernandez as Assistant Deputy Fire Marshal, EMS Operations; Greg Stinnett will be the district manager of EMS operations; Scott Ronstadt, deputy deputy chief ambulance driver of EMS logistics; and Mark Kiley as Deputy District Manager of the Mobile Reporting Unit.

At the same time, Nance-Holt acknowledged that the department has a long way to go in becoming a welcoming place for women.

When she first arrived at the predominantly white and male fire station in Bridgeport 30 years ago, she was unceremoniously greeted by a male colleague who put dog food in the Coca-Cola that she was drinking.

“I said to myself: ‘OK’. I put it back. I put it in someone else’s Coke. Good. That’s the way I reacted, ”said Nance-Holt.

“We can’t be a part of the game. We have to stand up and be different from that. I did not tolerate it [then]. I will not tolerate it now.

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