An inside look at Mayo Clinic's Emergency Communication Center
Located in the ground-level of the Generose Building is Mayo Clinic’s Emergency Communication Center (ECC) where 911 medical emergency calls are answered for Rochester, Austin, Albert Lea, Fairmont, Mankato, Owatonna, Litchfield, St. Cloud, Duluth, and Little Falls in Minnesota and Superior, Barron and Osseo in Wisconsin and an interfacility ambulance in Eau Claire. The ECC handles 911 medical emergency calls that are forwarded to them from Primary Service Answering Points (PSAPs) dispatch centers in the Mayo Clinic Medical Transport service areas. When someone dials 911, these calls are automatically routed to PSAPs. A dispatcher determines if the call is a law enforcement or public safety concern or a medical issue. Medical calls are nearly instantaneously routed to the ECC.
The ECC has the ability to dispatch 40 to 50 ambulances, three Mayo Clinic medical helicopters, and Mayo’s fixed wing airplane for emergency treatment and transport from a scene of injury or illness or between medical facilities. Last year, 114,000 calls came into the center requesting medical help and/or transport.
On the day I arrived at the center, I met with Jason Bartelt, assistant supervisor, and was given a tour of the facility which was relocated to the Generose Building basement in 1994. There are ten peak time and six night-time Emergency Medical Dispatchers (EMDs) working 12-hour shifts on desks that raise to a standing position or lower to a sitting position to enable dispatchers to adjust their work stations to keep active and alert through their shifts. As calls come in, the EMD identifies the nature of the call, collects general information of the situation and location and, through a series of protocol cards, asks questions specific to the call; the answers determine the most appropriate response.
Within 30 to 90 seconds, the EMD dispatches an ambulance and medical help to the emergency location. If the location is within the immediate Rochester area, an ambulance is dispatched. If the emergency is outside the designated Rochester area, a helicopter can be dispatched along with an ambulance to the scene if certain criteria are met. Either ambulance personnel or first responders, upon arriving at the location, can confirm the helicopter need or have it returned to base. The need is determined by the severity of the injury or medical problem and the distance of transport. Ground ambulances will transport the patient to the nearest hospital where the patient will be stabilized before transport to a larger trauma center such as Mayo Clinic Hospital — Saint Marys Campus if needed.
When an ambulance is dispatched, it carries at least one paramedic and an emergency medical technician (EMT) who begin assessment and treatment and remain in contact with the Emergency Communication Center. The ECC acts as a connecting point with the medical responders and the Emergency Department. Upon arrival at the hospital, the ambulance or helicopter is met with an informed and prepared medical team that is ready to go into action.
The logistics and symmetry of the process is amazing, and those of us who have experienced making a 911 call know the preciseness of the system that saves the lives of those in a medical emergency.