During the monthly meeting of the Emergency Services District #4 (ESD#4) board, it was announced that the Devine and Natalia service area would be upgraded to 2 full-time ambulances, effective Nov. 9th! The cities were previously served by 1 full-time (24 hr) ambulance and 1 half-time (12 hr) ambulance. Jorge De La Cerda (District Manager) & Dan Gillespie (COO) of Allegiance Mobile Health made the well-received announcement to the board, which is in charge of ensuring adequate Emergency Medical Services are available for residents of Devine, Natalia and the surrounding areas. For now, this has come at no additional cost to the community—Allegiance will assess the usage and costs of this change over the coming months and weigh it into the next contract cycle.
Allegiance operates their ambulances as a network, and when one is away on a call, another one is moved in to help cover the gap temporarily. It takes about 1 full-time ambulance to cover 100 calls per month, and ESD#4 tends to have 150-185 calls which puts us in the gap between needing 1.5 and 2 ambulances. This need had previously been met by a ‘floater’ which stayed near Moore, and ‘borrowing’ other Allegiance vehicles in Frio County. Occasionally other EMS providers—such as those in Hondo or San Antonio—would be called in, which results in increased wait time for patients. When adding the second full-time ambulance, they also rearranged the local network slightly to improve coverage. During the day, Unit 71 is in Devine and Unit 72 is in Natalia, but at night they both are kept in the Devine EMS building, allowing crews to get adequate sleep. Another change was moving the blood equipment from the supervisor SUV (Unit 53) into 71, so it will be available on-scene more quickly and improve outcomes for patients.
Due to COVID-19, the target response times have been increased temporarily to allow for first responders to don PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) before interacting with patients. This measure may take extra time but helps to protect their health and ours. Total calls were down for September, but returned to normal in October.
Of the 174 calls last month, 110 came from within Devine and Natalia; the average time was 6.85 minutes and the target was 6.0 min. The remaining 64 calls came from outside the two cities; average time was 9.17 minutes and the target was 9.0 min. About 25% of the calls required help from other cities such as Lytle, and as far as Frio County and Dilley, which led to a few response times being over 20 minutes. This includes a few big calls which required 3 & 4 units. The ESD#4 board and Allegiance hope the increased ambulance service will improve response times and reduce the need for outside help.
Board Looking for New Members
The entire ESD#4 board was present at the meeting, but has two longstanding members retiring after the December meeting and community volunteers are needed to replace these two gentlemen: Juan Cuellar & and Bill Marshall, who both served for much of the last 12 years. Board President, Beth Leonesio has invited those who are interested to come to the December meeting and talk to her about joining! The December 8th public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Triple C Steakhouse, 698 E Hondo Ave. in Devine.
Kyle G. Saathoff