Saturday, May 1, 2010

MAST/KCFD: Observations From Outside

Well, it's been about a week since the merger of operations of the free standing EMS provider MAST into the Kansas City Fire Department. Has anything much changed? The most visible change is that ambulances are no longer posting in public. There are still dynamic ambulances, ambulances that move around the city, but they "post" at fire stations now. I would love to see how response times are doing with the new system. They may not be terribly changed closer to the heart of the city, but I bet Southland and Northland times have been affected. I wonder where you can get this data?

Biggest visible change: One no longer finds ambulances hanging out here (QuikTrip at 102nd and Wornell--formerly post 44)...
More likely to find them hanging out in places like here (Fire Station 42 at Red Bridge and Hillcrest-ish--this ambulance still bears MAST logo and livery)...

Listening to the scanner reveals that numbering for the ambulances has changed--rather a lot actually. I would have to ask someone to be sure, but it appears that dynamic ambulances are being given 500 series numbers and assigned ambulances take the numbers from the fire stations or apparatus to which they are assigned. Ambulances are still being dispatched by a separate dispatcher, and are still being assigned lunch times. The shifts are still partial days--no 24 hour shifting as the KCFD does. And awkward! At times, everyone sounds like it's their first day at work! It's almost funny to hear the "er, ah, um, po--er station 36." type stuff that comes over the radio.

Questions, questions, questions--I have stupid practical questions I would love to have answered! If a dynamic ambulance is assigned to a certain fire house and they get there and the boys and girls are out, how do they get in? Is there a skeleton key that will open every fire house in the city? (Readers of Report from Engine Co. 82 will recall that that was the way they rolled in NYC in the '70s) Those assigned to dynamic ambulances still have to bring all the personals they might need, don't they. Unless a nice fire house would let them put their lunches in the fridge (and not eat them!) and they lunch there?

I see mondo big changes--I see central dispatch real soon. This is just too confusing to last. Hopefully, MAST dispatchers will still be retained. That's a lot of expertise to show the door to. KCFD dispatchers will need to learn about all the neat tracking and map tools that MAST has installed on the ambulances to help medics find their way around our big (in terms of square miles) city. MAST dispatchers will have to learn something about fire terms and fire suppression and how to support the companies at a working fire. There will need to be systems to help instruct the phoning public in first aid measures while they wait for help--this is done by MAST dispatch now.

Eventually, I see assigned ambulances to fire houses and regular crews manning those ambulances. Same people every day coming in, eventually developing a group of regular people who man that ambulance in that fire house. I don't know if they are doing this now. I think that might be a tough thing for the personal dynamics, just dropping in four or six new people suddenly into a group that has gotten to know each other over years. Just speculating here, but maybe this period is to see if any natural dynamics develop over time between certain medics and certain fire crews. Or perhaps these crews will develop from new recruits and be used in static applications over the old guard?

Because EMS calls vary in volume during the course of a 24 day and and 7 day week, it would be better for the Fire Department to maintain the use of shifts short of a full day, and extra ambulances for certain times of the day and certain days. I have felt all along that the flexibility of MAST's staffing was one of their strong advantages as a stand alone department. I can see losing this flexible approach, and this would definitely hurt the quality of the service given to the people. So I hope they retain the reservoir of ambulances and resources that are represented by the facility on Eastwood Trafficway.

There's a lot of work to be done, and a lot of evaluation. Now that this deed is done, we have to do it right.

And are we really saving money? I want to know about that, too.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Gosh, of course I have no answers, but,

They DON'T seem like silly questions to me. My husband said the three most important things to do on orientation day for new employees:

tell them their salary again
tell them when their raise review would be
tell them where the bathroom is.

Ann T.

code word for last one was bilion. this one is prolly, as in

prolly they are carrying their lunches on the van . . .

Rush'd Lady said...

I'm not real crazy about Mast, ever since one came to pick up my hubbin's grandfather who had died in the night. After they got grandpa put into the back of the ambulance, the ambulance couldn't start and they had to send another ambulance to get pop which took another 20 minutes. Now what if it had been emergency?

the observer said...

Rush'd Lady--
So sorry to bring back bad memories--I have been following this story since August and want to watch the outcome. Service should be at least as good, hopefully, under the management of the Kansas City, MO FD, but I worry. A lot more politics are involved now.

MAST had KCK for just a short time, then gave it back to the KCK FD. All MAST assets went back to the Missouri side. Sounds like it might have been a good thing.

The Observer

the observer said...

Ann T:
No, I would not trust my lunch in a fire house fridge either...and not just that it might be eaten! ;-)

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. We, the interested public, must hold the fire department and by extension, the city government responsible for how this turns out.

The Observer