The Santa Fe Fire Department, like many across the state, is becoming overwhelmed with medical calls. Now, they’ve created a new division with the hopes of better serving citizens.
SFFD responds to all sorts of events like structure fires, hazmat situations, swift water rescues and more, but a big portion of the thousands of calls they get each year are medical emergencies.
While the department has served the community with emergency medical services for 40 years, a new division of the department will now focus on this and community outreach.
“This will be a new effort for us,” said Greg Cliburn, Assistant Chief of EMS for the Santa Fe Fire Department.
When the department gets an emergency call, they’re prepared for anything.
“The people of Santa Fe expect their fire department to respond to a very wide variety of emergencies,” said Cliburn.
While fires are a big part of their job, an even bigger part is the medical emergencies that come with accidents, car crashes and overdoses.
“A very large portion of that need for service is actually for emergency medical services,” said Cliburn. “About 12,000 times a year they’re saying, ‘come help us with a health emergency.'”
All of the department’s firefighters are EMS-certified, so they reorganized and created a division of firefighters to help with those emergencies.
“All of our ambulances are advanced life support transport ambulances,” said Cliburn. “We start your care, we finish your care, we don’t hand you off to anyone else so we are Santa Fe’s EMS agency.”
The new division also includes a social worker to connect people who frequently call 911 — with help.
The department says that could mean finding them a place to stay and getting them to a shelter or getting them the at-home care they need, or something much more simple, like helping them with their prescriptions.
“They don’t always need an emergency room and they don’t always need an ambulance but they’re asking for something from us,” said Cliburn.
As the EMS division is able to focus on bringing state and federal programs into the department, this may even help with recovering costs for the taxpayers.
“As we can pay more attention to the quality of the data that we’re putting into national databases, the quality of patient reporting that we do, and as we have more staff pursue federal and state programs that can help us with cost recovery, we can actually, probably, do a better job at recovering costs for the taxpayers,” said Cliburn.
The division has been worked into the department’s current budget and positions, with no need for extra funds. The city’s budget is expected to be finalized sometime next month.