Rural EMS

  • Thu Jan 7th, 2021 3:14pm
  • News

Dear Editor,

Several years ago the Community of Forks voted to fund an EMS levy, for the purchase of emergency vehicles, equipment, supplies, and training, for a Corps of EMS Volunteers. An organization known as Ray Ellis Memorial Volunteer Ambulance Corps, or REMVAC for short.

REMVAC has been responding to calls for over 70 years. In the beginning, people needing help would call the residence of a volunteer for help, later the hospital would dispatch the ambulance, and in the recent past, Forks Police Department was the local 911 dispatch center, now we are dispatched through PenCom out of Port Angeles. We as a Corps have also grown and expanded over the last few decades. We are no longer an all-volunteer organization, we have full-time EMT’s on staff and all EMT’s are paid at a per-diem rate when they are on standby, or when they respond to a 911 call. Our full-time EMT’s are also Emergency Room Tech’s and work in the Hospital providing patient care in outpatient, acute care, OB-Gyn, surgery and on occasion, Long Term Care.

As a Hospital-based EMS system, we can provide a higher level of care to our patients. For example, Grandma gets sick and calls for an ambulance; we respond, treat and transport her to the Hospital. Rather than dropping her off and leaving, we will accompany her to the emergency room, assist in her intake and care. Should she be admitted to the floor, we assist the Nurses and Nurses Aid’s in her care and treatment. If she needs to be transported to another facility for more definitive care, we do that as well. In the unfortunate event that Grandma again becomes sick or injured, we are familiar with her, her needs and her medical history, and will provide the very best care that we can, pre-hospital, in the hospital and after discharge.

Our EMT’s work hard to achieve these goals, we train monthly together; we seek out training from other agencies and attend yearly training hosted by the regional EMS councils. We have 7 Advanced EMT’s and another 7 ready to test for their advanced certification. We work very closely with the State Dept. of Health and are constantly seeking ways to improve our service.

Our area of operations covers all areas from LaPush to Kalaloch Lodge (and beyond), into the National Parks, to the coast line, into the wilderness to the logging sites, and even into the forest itself. Over 900 square miles of land. Compare that to Seattle, where one ambulance covers maybe a ¼ mile square, with six ambulances within 10 minutes to back them up. We have to be at our best, the cost of failure is too high!

In 2019, we have had 815 ambulance activations, meaning we responded to 911 calls, civic events or assisted other agencies in their duties, provided a medical presence for high-risk law enforcement action and provide support for the local fire departments. This last year has been our busiest in the last 5 years. We have transported 650 patients to the Hospital, as well as an additional 90 to other facilities, from Port Angeles to Seattle, to Bremerton, Aberdeen, and Bellingham just to mention a few.

It is noted also that during these calls, we receive other calls for service, in fact almost 20 percent of our calls are concurrent or consecutive, and not once have I had to explain to a patient or family member that we could not take care of them, we have answered every call. That’s not to say we haven’t had times when we are shorthanded or had to scramble to find a crew, but REMVAC always answers the call. Our average response time this last year was 6 minutes. 6 minutes from when you call for help, there will be an ambulance and crew headed your way. There were over 2,500 individual responses last year, with almost 7,000 man-hours total.

I am very proud to serve with such people as Britni, Katie, Jenny, Ron, Edna, Rich, Avery, Nik, Heidi, Mike, Brad, Cortlynn, Lisa, Dustin, Cynthia, Vicky, Jay, Kathy, Beckie, Bridgette, Adria, Dean, Jolene and many more no longer active, but very much a part of the team. These EMTs, members of this community, your neighbors, your friends, have witnessed the horror of violence, the injury of the innocents, the passing of loved ones, accidents, injuries, illnesses and folly; they have borne witness to heroics, and have comforted the survivors. They respond from their beds in the dark of the night, from the dinner table, from the shower, from their families, on holidays, birthdays, church and barbecues, in all weather, at all times.

Forks Ambulance service always answers the call.

Tim Wade, Ambulance Supervisor / Safety Officer for Forks Community Hospital