Serving the community since 1922

Report: Hall working to improve ambulance response times

Hall Ambulance Services is making progress on improving response times in its service area, which includes Shafter and Wasco, according to a top official of the company.

Without providing statistics, Jonathan Surface, chief operating officer at the company, told the Shafter City Council Monday that pre-pandemic, there was a nationwide shortage of EMTs and paramedics. This made more competition for staff, and the cost of acquiring employees rose.

Another challenge has been an underpaid workforce. One cause is that reimbursements have not changed in 20 years. The year of 2020 was challenging because crews were outfitted in full personal protection equipment all day, most days in over-100 degree heat. There was also a huge spike in the volume of calls, which has not dropped.

To help remedy the situation, Kern County Public Health contracted with out-of-area emergency medical technician companies to assist in the needs of the county. In 2022, Hall Ambulance spent over $7 million in out-of-area contracts with other EMT companies. This year, the situation has improved, with the reopening of the Hall Ambulance EMT Academy, which has three sessions per year. This training can be completed in 90 days, which qualifies the individual to begin their EMT career. Hall Ambulance has positions available for those completing the training. They also have one paramedic academy per year, which takes 18 months to complete.

The company also has partnered with Bakersfield College to educate potential employees in their EMT and paramedic programs.

One major issue that is affecting response times is the amount of time they are having to pay employees for waiting at the hospital with patients as they await care by hospital staff. The company is having to pay EMTs and paramedics for hours waiting at local hospitals on a regular basis. To help remedy this situation, Hall has implemented a new procedure of "stacking" patients. This involves having one team of EMTs or paramedics take control of several patients to free up the other teams to go back into the field. This is not an ideal situation and can be problematic for the hospital, but it has become necessary.

A big boost to the company has been the increase in salaries, which has helped retain a larger number of employees who might otherwise go out of the area for higher pay.

They have improved significantly since the implementation of these programs, and the response time report is a reflection of this.

In the future, the company is looking stronger than ever with the improvements that have been made and the commitment of the county in assisting with the company to keep the performance of the company at a high level.

At the meeting, the council approved a resolution to hold regular First Friday events aimed at revitalizing the downtown area and bringing more families to the core center of the city.

The events will begin with a street fair in May, including food vendors, retail vendors and music. First Friday events in the future will include concerts, markets and entertainment.

In the public comment section of the meeting, Randy Toews spoke about his concerns of the effects of the new curbside trash collection service. Toews said that one of the reasons he and his wife bought their current house is the alley trash service. "The new curbside service has resulted in traffic problems, with delivery persons unable to deliver packages in a safe manner, and also has resulted in vehicles having a hard time finding a safe place to park on the street with the amount of trash cans in the street at the curb."

Toews believes that there should be alternative services than the curbside service. He said that it is unsafe and makes the neighborhood look undesirable.


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