New leadership for ambulance dispatch

A UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown ambulance is shown departing for a call from a local elementary school earlier this year.

Beginning July 2, Marshall County E-911 Emergency Operators added a new task — dispatching UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown ambulances. For approximately 50 years previously, that job had been the responsibility of UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown medical dispatchers.

E-911 callers requesting an ambulance were transferred to UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown medical dispatchers by E-911 operators. The UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown dispatcher followed through by ordering an ambulance or providing other assistance.

However, earlier this year, UnityPoint Health officials told the Marshall County Communications Commission — which manages the E-911 system — it would discontinue the service effective July 1.

They cited a need to cut unnecessary costs in order to keep quality care.

Now, three months in, both sides are pleased with results. E-911 Manager Teresa Lang, who supervised the transition, told the E-911 Board earlier this month “the transition was going smoothly.

T-R PHOTO By MIKE DONAHEY - Staff from UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown pose with the facility’s new ambulance oustide the hospital’s main entrance Thursday. From left are President Dustin Wright, Emergency Services Manager Nick Heintz, UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Foundation Director Dierdre Gruendler and Paramedic Tanner Wolken.

“We get about 15 (ambulance dispatch) calls per day,” she said.

Her comments were echoed by UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Vice President of Operations Dustin Wright. He said UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown is also pleased after nearly three months. Wright said UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown met with Lang and her team to better understand E-911 workflow.

Additionally, the hospital added new equipment to enhance dispatching. Wright said UnityPoint has strived from the beginning to work in partnership with MCCC. The MCCC board is made up of representatives from local elected officials in Marshalltown, State Center, Melbourne, Albion, Le Grand, Laurel, Gilman, Haverhill, Rhodes, Clemons, Ferguson, Liscomb and Saint Anthony. Other members are Marion Township, Marshall County Sheriff, Emergency Management Coordinator and Marshall County Board of Supervisors.

E-911 operators currently work in the basement of the Marshalltown Police Department, 22 N. Center St. They will move to the joint Police and Fire Headquarters facility, expected to be open in March, under construction in the 900 block of South Second Street.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com