What TFD’s ‘Advanced Life Support’ transition really means

TOPEKA (KSNT) — Now that Topeka Interim Fire Chief Tim Wayne is leading the fire department, he is looking into expanding medical response.

But additional training and equipment to transition to advance life support could be costly. City and fire leaders are looking into ways to provide better medical service to the community.

Currently, there are several paramedics with TFD, but the department’s current practice prohibits fire fighters certified as paramedics to act as such.

With Wayne on board, the department plans on making some significant changes. They’ll start with the transition from Basic Life Support” to Advance Life Support.

“That level of service going from BLS to ALS will enhance the service delivered to the community,” says Wayne. “Increases your cardiac survivability rate and improves your stroke responses.”

According to a 2014 Capital Journal article this is a transition that was already in the making. The article says TFD has had preliminary discussions with a consultant and Arizona-based rural metro for insight into the transition.

Wayne comes from Goodyear, Arizona where the fire department there made the move to ALS in 1995.

“The leadership is really excited about this move and is looking forward to developing and changing the Topeka Fire Department for the better,” Wayne says.

But what’s the cost to Topeka?

Currently Shawnee County pays a subsidy to American Medical Response for those who don’t have insurance covering the cost or who are underinsured.

This year Shawnee County paid AMR over $600,000, right now, the city doesn’t pay.

Topeka’s transition to a faster, better trained medical response by firefighters will take time and money.

Equipping one fire engine with ALS supplies can run anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000.

And don’t forget training hours.

“you just consider the one component of educating fire fighters from the basic level to the paramedic level that is at least two years of education to get there,” says Wayne.

Last year AMR responded to over 14,000 emergency calls within the city. If the department does decide to transition, they would have to provide transports to local hospitals or require a private contractor.

Wayne says it will take about three to four years to fully transition the department to Advanced Life Support.

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