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The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office is excited to announce the implementation of the Medical Priority Dispatch System™ (MPDS®) to better serve the citizens of Preston City and Franklin County in emergency situations. With it, dispatchers will coach someone at the scene on steps to take to help the patient until emergency services crews can arrive to take over.

“The Priority Dispatch System has a long standing and scientifically proven track record to allow medical dispatchers to start assisting “immediate responders” such as family members, friends or the good Samaritan to start providing medical care starting with the 911 call,” said Dr. Lance R. Bryce. “We no longer take a 911 phone call and page for help; we actually start the process of taking care of the patient. The public will need to clearly understand that while it may seem the dispatcher is asking a lot of questions that each question has a medical purpose in treating the patient(s).

“The size of our county and the long transport times make this type of dispatch care vital to give the patient every opportunity to survive and/or decrease the extent of injuries. I am confident that this system will save more lives than the previous system we currently us,” he said.

The system is expected to go live Oct. 27-28. Dispatchers using the newly implemented protocol system:

• will follow nationally recognized standards

• give universal, consistent care and service to every caller

• gather critical emergency call information for responders

• identify life-threatening situations

• safely prioritize calls for appropriate and fast response

• provide “Zero Minute” Dispatch Life Support using Pre-Arrival and Post-Dispatch Instructions

Implementing the medical protocol enables dispatchers to accurately assess each emergency situation and send the best response possible, while safeguarding valuable and limited emergency services resources and increasing safety for both citizens and responders. One key benefit Franklin County Sheriff’s Office will now provide is a constant stream of crucial and updated scene information to field responders en route. This information will better prepare responders to give precise assistance when they arrive at the scene.

“This has been a long time in coming. It is amazing how many more medical calls we receive daily. We are excited to be trained and able to provide the best care we can on these calls. Our dispatch staff have worked hard to get trained and ready for this new feature. If we can help save one life or keep a serious problem in check, it will be worth it,” said Sheriff David Fryar.

The number of medical calls the system handles today is 30 percent over what it was in teh past, said Mark Gilbert of the Franklin County Ambulance Association.

“Ten years ago we had 200-250 calls per year. Three years ago, we were 550. The last two years, we’ve been at 700,” said Gilbert. He attributes the increase to a higher and aging population.

And although there have been a few cases of COVID-19, Gilbert doesn’t feel that the increase can be attributed to the pandemic. He also noted that with the additional surgeons that have come on board in Preston, “we don’t transfer patients out as much. ...our hospital is able to handle (more) things.”

“Our current population of the county is almost 14,000. With two thirds being out in the county and rural, this Priority Dispatch System will allow callers to be assisted in rendering basic medical needs such as CPR where minutes count while the ambulance is in route. Please have patience with us as we will be asking a lot more questions about the patient,” said Franklin County Sheriff’s Dept. Sgt. Jeff Nate.

The Priority Dispatch System™ (PDS™) includes ProQA® software and/or cardsets, a three-day certification training course for emergency dispatchers, and continual quality improvement (QI) benchmarks and training. All dispatchers who work on the new system are certified by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch® (NAED™) and must re-certify every two years, completing 24 hours of continuing dispatch education (CDE) and passing all requirements for NAED recertification.

“Currently our staff consists of four full-time employees and two part-time employees. We have also cross-trained our driver’s license staff to fill in in emergencies. All of these employees have worked hard to train for this and are excited to assist in saving lives,” Sgt. Nate said.

Proactive quality improvement (QI) benchmarks are an important part of the newly implemented Priority Dispatch System. Use of the PDS allows communications centers to assess the quality of the care they are providing their communities, allowing them to make positive adjustments to training and staff in response to these assessments.

The constantly evolving Priority Dispatch System (PDS) will help provide the highest standard of care to Franklin County, allowing emergency medical dispatchers to better manage limited resources and increase the accuracy and efficiency of the dispatching process.

“It’ll be nice when we get the medical dispatch going. They have used it a couple of times (for testing) and it has been nice. It will really benefit the community,” Gilbert said.

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