Friday, February 22, 2013

Bonanza Column 273 - Don't let NLTFPD become average

Recently I had occasion to read an evaluation of the emergency medical services provided throughout Washoe County. The evaluation was done by the TriData Division of the System Planning Corporation under contract to Washoe County. TriData’s report included several findings and recommendations regarding actions that could be taken by the affected agencies including the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.
The NLTFPD is the exclusive provider of emergency medical services for Incline Village and Crystal Bay. The Fire District has provided these services to our communities here at the Lake with great success for several years, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who lives or visits here who has less than the highest regard for the NLTFPD. The problem is that, as with so many things, the report fails to distinguish between the part of Washoe County that is inside the Tahoe Basin from the rest of the County.
EMS programs in the Truckee Meadows, including both Fire and REMSA in the Reno/Sparks area, come in for substantial criticism in the report, and TriData’s recommendations come under the heading of “Washoe County Wide” changes to emergency medical services that are needed.
The concern is that if County-Wide changes are made with a broad brush, NLTFPD’s ability to deliver the excellent service we have come to expect could be impacted.
The report recommends that “The future of EMS in Washoe County should include a countywide EMS system with responsibility for total system oversight…A countywide EMS system could be overseen by the Washoe [District Board of Health] or a Washoe County public safety agency. An EMS lead agency should include an EMS Manager and staff and an EMS Medical Director. We include several possible EMS organization models and specify EMS staff requirements.”
I have no argument with the notion that such oversight could result in improved service for Reno, Sparks, and most of the County, but I have every expectation that it would be disastrous for services here at the Lake. When you put an excellent service provider under management that is (a) distant and (b) broad in scope, you get what in statistics is called “regression toward the mean.” In other words, if NLTFPD is an A and the rest of the County is a C, everyone will get to be a B. Good for them, bad for us.
NFLTPD must obviously cooperate with Washoe County to ensure that any improvements to county-wide emergency medical services are successful. Any changes of ordinances, laws, protocols or certifications that may affect the operations of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District’s existing ability to provide the high level of emergency medical services currently provided should require approval from the Board of Fire Directors of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, and may require approval of the voters of the District as well.
Rather than wait until we are fighting a defensive action, IV/CB residents should let the County know that we will not accept any solution, county-wide or otherwise, that detracts from the level of services we have and that our taxes pay for. The TriData report went to John Slaughter, Director of Management Services and Kurt Latipow, Fire Services Coordinator, in the Washoe County Manager's Office, and those would be two good people to communicate with, along with County Manager Katy Simon, the District Board of Health, the NLTFPD Board, and the IVGID Board of Trustees who should be in the forefront of this effort.

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