Lovelock ambulances run around the clock

In response to a concern about night-time ambulance services in Lovelock, Fire Department Chief Nathan Carmichael confirmed recently that volunteer emergency medical crews still respond around the clock, seven days a week and that all patients are transported to the Pershing General Hospital.

Though the Lovelock Fire Department no longer transfers patients by ambulance from PGH to other hospitals between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., LVFD ambulance crews still transport patients during the day to other hospitals in Reno or elsewhere, he said.

The night-time patient transfer service was discontinued earlier this year due to a shortage of volunteer ambulance crews, Carmichael said. Paid ambulance crews employed by REMSA in Reno or Humboldt General Hospital's EMS teams in Winnemucca are available to provide those patient transfers, he said.

The concerned person, who asked to not be identified, said he and other senior citizens were alarmed by a false rumor that Lovelock ambulances were no longer responding to emergency medical calls after 10 p.m. Potential delays in ground transfers to other hospitals are also a concern and costly flights by helicopter to other hospitals may be too expensive for seniors and those without health insurance.

“I understand that's a pretty large amount of money. A lot of the people in this town are retired and are on social security so that could be a hardship for a lot of these folks,” the concerned citizen said.

Carmichael said the Pershing County Commission and the Lovelock City Council were aware of the patient transfer situation that's available only during the day. If a full volunteer roster is achieved, his department may again handle night-time patient transfers from the local hospital to other facilities.

Carmichael suggested people volunteer for the department rather than simply complaining about it.

“If people have a problem with it, they need to step up and volunteer because we are in desperate need of them,” Carmichael said recently. “A lot of people want to complain but they don't want to step up and actually do the job. We are volunteers. We have jobs and we have families.”

The LVFD has increased to 21 volunteers but a full roster of 30 is needed, he said. More people have come forward to volunteer in recent months but it's a big commitment. Many hours of training are required for recruits to be certified as both emergency medical technicians and firefighters as required by the LVFD.

“We're getting applications but these people still have to go through an EMT class, they still have to get their ambulance operator's license,” he said. “It's not just having personnel, it's about having personnel willing to do the work and get it done. The biggest problem is people are not willing to donate or volunteer their time to accomplish the mission anymore.”

Carmichael also said that PGH is responsible for patient transfers, not the local fire department.

“When we as a department made that decision to change our hours for patient transfers, it had to do with the lack of volunteers not because we didn't want to provide the service,” Carmichael said. “It is my understanding that, by law, it is up to the hospital to get people transferred, not the Lovelock Volunteer Fire Department. Our job is to take them to Pershing General Hospital.”

Pershing County Commissioner Larry Rackley said REMSA and CARE FLIGHT will transfer PGH patients by ground or air to other hospitals after 10 p.m. He recommends that residents sign up for the REMSA Care Flight's Flight Plan that covers “reasonable out of pocket costs for medically necessary air ambulance flights.” The annual plan covers all members of the household.

“Buy the REMSA insurance. It costs you $55 a year,” Rackley said. “We had it in Carson City. Whatever transports your insurance may not cover, they will cover it, including helicopter transfers.”

As the commission's liaison for emergency services, Rackley said regular fire chief meetings and greater coordination between the four county fire departments in Grass Valley, Imlay, Rye Patch and Lovelock could promote volunteer recruitment, improve training and increase certification.

As for concerns about Lovelock ambulance response times, he believes that more volunteers, not a paid ambulance service, remains the best option for emergency medical services in Pershing County.

“A paid ambulance service is not being discussed,” he said. “Right now, we have enough volunteers to do what we need to do. Maybe we don't have enough volunteers for the night transports but hopefully that can be corrected. Luckily, we have Sean Burke, who is helping the other fire chiefs with training.”

Lovelock Police Chief Mike Mancebo is less confident about the volunteer ambulance service. He's heard multiple over-the-air notifications by county dispatchers before on-call volunteers respond. In his opinion, paid ambulance services may be needed if the LVFD volunteer roster declines any further.