Editor's note: This is the first of two stories about Apple Valley Lakeville Farmington ambulance services. Check back on Wednesday to read about ambulance equipment and trends in ambulance calls.
More than 5,000 times a year, an ambulance in Apple Valley, Lakeville or Farmington screams out of its station and rushes to help save a life.
Since 2009, Allina Medical Transport has been responsible for these ambulances and the paramedics they carry. The service they provide has become more efficient and has saved the participating cities money, according to ALF Ambulance administrators.
When ALF Ambulance was established, the idea was that the three municipalities could save money and provide better services to their citizens by collaborating. Both those ideas still existed in 2009 when ALF contracted with Allina.
Allina organized ALF ambulances differently when it came in, with one more ambulance staffed from 8 a.m. to midnight than ALF did when it was run by the cities, paramedic Brian Sturz said.
ALF ambulances also now use a method of operation called dynamic deployment, which resulted in a nearly two-minute average decrease in ambulance response time from 2008 to 2010, according to an Allina report to the Apple Valley City Council. Apple Valley addresses make up the largest share of ALF ambulance calls, likely because there are more businesses that attract workers and customers, said Jeff Czyson, operations manager for Allina Medical Transport.
"In a dynamic deployment model paramedics are sent to a base location, but when they are assigned a call, one or more of the other ambulances move to a different location ... to optimize coverage," Czyson said. "The dynamic deployment model is less comfortable for the paramedics, but it shortens the response time to calls."
Allina also has provided a larger staff of paramedics, more flexibility in service and more appealing shifts for the paramedics, said Dennis Feller, Lakeville’s finance director.
ALF used to have 24 paramedics who each worked 24-hour shifts. Allina now staffs ALF from a larger pool of paramedics working mostly overlapping eight-hour shifts, though 12- and 16-hour shifts still exist, Feller said.
Working with Allina also benefits the cities financially, administrators say. ALF doesn’t pay Allina for ambulance service, while Allina pays to lease space in city firehouses, Feller said. He put the cost savings to ALF at 50 cents per capita—more than $20,000 for Apple Valley.
Contracting with Allina also has provided opportunities for public education. Allina provides training for police, firefighters, parks and recreation staff and the general public. According to the ALF 2010 Education Report, Allina helped train 616 city employees and more than 900 members of the public in first aid, CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators in 2010.
A Heart Restart program in Apple Valley also is scheduled to begin during this year’s July 4 festivities, according to the report. The program will focus on compression-only CPR instruction and using an AED.
Education programs likely will increase in importance as Minnesota’s population ages. Allina's report to the city council noted an increased demand among patients 45 and older in the past year.
"The Baby Boomer generation is our largest, and as they age, the demand on our nation’s entire health care system increases," Czyson said.