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Partnership Improves Acute Care on Orcas, By Tom Eversole / February 23, 2022

Improved working relationship between primary care and Orcas Island Fire & Rescue.

For the past year members of both the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) of Orcas Island Fire & Rescue (OIFR) and the Island Primary Care – Orcas (IPC-O) clinic have been working closely to improve several elements of the care provided to the members of our community. Specifically:

For years before it closed, Orcas Family Health Center staff provided necessary after-hours care. In the interim years, before Island Health re-opened the IPC-O clinic last April, no provider was on call at the publicly funded clinic, impacting about 40% of the calls. Providers came into the Deye Lane clinic on a voluntary basis after hours as it was not a requirement of their employment. Today EMS staff always have direct after-hours access to a local on-call provider from the clinic. That provider will come into the clinic when deemed medically appropriate. 

EMS services exist to deal with medical emergencies (those medical situations that are deemed potentially life-threatening). However, EMS often gets 911 calls that turn out to be acute care (not life-threatening but warrant immediate attention). That’s when it is so valuable to have access to clinic providers who are on call and required to respond. Not only can the patient receive the care needed but they may not have to be “medevaced” off island unnecessarily.

EMS staff also now have direct access to a triage nurse in the clinic who can arrange to see an acute care patient that same day. Previously, acute care patients were often going to the Eastsound Fire Station for care. Now those patients are being seen at the clinic, which is the appropriate place for acute care vs. emergency care.

EMS and IPC-O staff now meet regularly to review individual cases, to ensure that the working relationship is operating effectively and to identify ways to further improve it. A number of other protocols have been put in place to enable patients to make insurance claims easier and to collect data on the number of calls and how they were handled. 

These improvements have had a significant impact on the quality-of-care patients are receiving. Thank you to the dedicated members of EMS and the Island Health IPC-O clinic staff who are working hard to continuously improve the care they provide to us all. This progress is an important achievement in Orcas Island Health Care District’s mission to ensure that all the members of our community have access to high quality primary and acute care including after-hours acute care in a financially sustainable and cost-effective manner. 

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