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Pagosa Springs
Friday, September 17, 2021

Partnership leads to faster emergency response

Since July, the Pagosa Fire Protection District (PFPD) has been responding as medical first responders to certain medical calls to aid the Upper San Juan Health Service District (USJHSD).
The program is called the Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) program, according to the PFPD.
Jason Webb, clinic director and Emergency Medical Services director for USJHSD, which operates Pagosa Springs Medical Center, told The SUN recently that an informal partnership has been in place for a long time, but the changes that took place this summer have PFPD responding automatically, instead of by request, to major medical events and trauma incidents.
“The point of it all is that there are certain scenarios where time is of the essence: if you’re bleeding, if you’re in cardiac arrest, if you’re having a heart attack, if you’re having a stroke,” Webb explained, adding, “The quicker we can get people there, the better outcome the patient is probably going to have.”
Webb explained that ambulances typically send two EMTs, usually a paramedic and an EMT to medical scenes and the EMR program can bolster response times and overall make the community safer.
Webb explained that patients who are very sick require “a whole team,” and the PFPD responding automatically to certain medical events allows for a better quality of care and service.
The PFPD has 16 EMTs on staff and an additional 15 personnel are enrolled in the EMR class, according to a press release about the EMR program by the PFPD.
Paid firefighters are required to obtain their EMT certification within one year of being hired.
According to the press release, the primary goal of implementing the EMR program is to “deliver rapid lifesaving medical care to citizens in need and to provide on-scene support for patients while additional advanced medical personnel are en route.”
Webb noted that in unique circumstances EMR-certified fire volunteers could respond quicker than EMS personnel, such as if a volunteer firefighter was dispatched to a scene that was close to their home, as volunteer firefighters often go directly to incidents from their private residences.
The PFPD’s press release states that because the PFPD has seven fire stations located throughout the county where volunteers are stationed, it allows PFPD “to provide a timely response to medical calls in outlying areas.”
Webb explained that the EMR program is especially beneficial in a community like Archuleta County where public services districts can be underfunded and have fewer resources.
“I think [this] is a huge benefit because we don’t have a ton of resources,” Webb said, adding, “It’s a huge benefit to kind of lean on each other.”

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