South Fork Fire Rescue (SFFR) began providing interfacility transfers several years ago as a service to the community. The interfacility transfers are provided for patients who are in need of specialty care available outside of the San Luis Valley and require medical care during the trip from SLV Hospitals and are not critically ill or injured, which would require a flight, not a trip by ground ambulance.
When it began at SFFR it was done on a volunteer basis, and any member who was available to be part of the transport crew that day, would volunteer if a transfer was needed. As the need for the transfers grew, South Fork Fire Rescue created the transport division, staffed by an EMT-Intermediate who could provide Advanced Life Support to patients during transports and added an additional ambulance for these transfers.
The demands for interfacility ground transfers have steadily grown and the SFFR has recognized the need to continue to grow and expand the services in the Transport Division. An additional EMT-Intermediate was added to the full-time staff in November of 2018 and in January of 2020 the transport division has grown to a staff of 7, providing 24-hour coverage for interfacility transfers.
Plans for this expansion began in 2019 and included applying for a grant to purchase an additional ambulance that would be dedicated to interfacility transfers, which was awarded. This grant allowed SFFR to purchase a new 2019 Ford Transit Van Ambulance built by Malley Industries that is dedicated to the transport division. That ambulance was delivered on March 14, 2020, and members of SFFR worked to quickly get it prepared to be placed into service. Following an inspection and certification, it was placed into service March 20, 2020. The addition of this new ambulance brings our transport division to 2 ambulances and 7 full-time staff.
As the nation, state and region were preparing for response to COVID-19,SFFR was no exception. They have one of the transport ambulances dedicated to transporting patients who are possibly infected with COVID-19 and have taken steps to keep patients and attendants as safe as we can during these transports. As you can see in the photo, cabinets, seats and equipment are covered or sealed to help prevent contamination, and speed decontamination following a transfer.
They have taken an extra step towards keeping our attendant safe, above the national guidelines and engineered and installed a positive pressure air pump, which ensures that the attendant isn’t breathing the same air as the COVID-19 patient.
If you are calling 911 for any type of emergency and have been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, are in isolation or quarantine, please communicate this with the dispatcher. Limiting the responders exposure is important to keep our responders healthy and prepared to respond to the emergency needs in the community.
Health officials urge you to follow the stay home order issued by the governor and the direction provided by the local health department. If you must leave home for a critical need, such as picking up a prescription or picking up groceries, maintain social distancing practices, staying 6 feet or more from others and following hygiene practices recommended by health departments.