REMSA prepares for growth
This is the second of a two-part series on REMSA. See also “EMERGENCY MEDICINE” in the April 25 issue of NNBW.
In early April of this year, REMSA personnel had a glimpse of what’s ahead for the nonprofit company that delivers emergency medical services to Washoe County and beyond.
On April 4, 911-call volume spiked 11 percent over what would be expected on a typical early spring Monday. A few days later, they recorded another spike.
Population growth and changes in healthcare accessibility are fueling an increase in demand that is expected to grow substantially in the next few years.
“Since about 2014 (calls) have increased 10 percent year over year,” said Dean Dow, president and CEO of REMSA, which includes Care Flight and other emergency medical service programs. “2016 probably will exceed that 10 percent, maybe (to) 12 percent.”
In 2015, REMSA transported an average of 140 patients per day, Dow said. In 2016 so far, the average is 155 to 160 transports per day.
“We don’t see those numbers leveling off,” he said.
Two factors have contributed to most of that increase: population growth, which is expected to pick up speed in a couple years as Tesla, Switch and other large companies open giant manufacturing and warehouse facilities, attracting more employees to the area.
The second factor is the Affordable Care Act, which substantially increased the number of people with access to healthcare.
“We’ve done a wonderful job in the last 40 years getting folks to dial 9-1-1,” Dow said. “Now that more have the ability to access healthcare, now they are utilizing what they’ve been educated to utilize. So they are calling 911.”
Growth may be increasing speed, but it’s not new.
REMSA, which stands for Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority, began in 1986 with a staff of 50. It now employs 500. REMSA celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, while it’s Care Flight division has logged 35 years of providing emergency air transport.
Through the years, REMSA has seen growth, improvements in equipment and computerized systems, and more and regular training exercises with other first responders.
“We all collectively preplan and practice for major events,” Dow said.
Such practice has proven itself. Dow was not in the area for the 2011 air crash at the Reno Air Races, which killed 11 people, but he knows the record of the first responders.
“It was a very concise and very managed situation because of preplanning,” he said. “REMSA transported 54 patients inside of 62 minutes.”
Dow expects the same quality emergency service to grow with the community.
New advanced EMT units have already been added to the system and REMSA’s eight-member volunteer board of directors keeps a close watch on the pulse of the community to determine when more will be needed.
“Every time we meet … we are evaluating the next increase in services,” Dow said. “Almost on a weekly bases we sit down and track trends and look where the volume (locations) are.”
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.