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September 16, 2012

Mercy Regional

OTEMS changes dispatch centers

CLAREMORE — Oologah-Talala Emergency Medical Services (OTEMS) ambulance service has changed dispatch centers, effective early next week, to reduce costs while continuing excellent service to patrons. The OTEMS board voted Thursday night to change from the Chelsea Police Department to Mercy Regional EMS’s dispatch center in Owasso.

“The transition will be transparent for our patrons, whose calls will be handled by experienced dispatchers who are familiar with the geography and addresses in our district,” said Kelly Deal, OTEMS operations director.

“The decision was based only on financial reasons as we are able to cut our monthly cost by more than half (from $1,350 to $600),” Deal said in a letter to Chelsea City Manager Kenny Weast. “It was simply a business decision by the OTEMS board of directors.”

Deal said OTEMS will honor a 30-day cancellation clause in the Chelsea contract by paying for services through Oct. 14. However, it has already begun testing its new radio frequency and hopes to make the physical switch to Mercy as soon as Monday.

Mercy already dispatches for the Northwest Rogers County Fire Protection District. The boards of both entities have approved sharing a radio frequency.

Since Northwest and OTEMS respond to all medical, traffic accident and injury calls within the OTEMS district, the new dispatching arrangement should improve efficiency and service to patients.

The services will use the same frequency, so they can be dispatched simultaneously rather than separately from dispatch centers located in two different counties. In addition, all responding units can simultaneously receive additional information on directions and the situations to which they are responding, Deal said.

Technical factors in the radio system now used by Mercy for Northwest also are expected to improve radio reception for OTEMS, especially when units are taking patients to hospitals in Owasso and Tulsa.

The change will not affect OTEMS’s participation in the new unified Rogers County E911 Dispatch Center. The new countywide center is not expected to go online until next July at the earliest.

Deal represents EMS services in the county on the center’s advisory board, and is expected to be named a trustee in the same capacity if Rogers County commissioners change to a trust form of governance for the new operation.

“It has been a pleasure working with the (Chelsea) dispatch staff and their dedication to the lifesaving work they do,” Deal said. “Our patrons should continue to call 911 for any emergency requiring emergency medical services.

“The 911 operator will automatically transfer the caller to our new dispatch center.”

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