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News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation

We’ve all seen it while driving — emergency vehicles rushing down the street, sirens screaming and red lights flashing as cars pull out of the way. Getting to an emergency quickly is essential, and often more challenging in a rural region. Whether our team is rushing a critical patient from an accident to the hospital, bringing in a seriously ill COVID-19 patient, or transferring someone to another location, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s (SNMH) ambulances are an essential service.

Annually, nearly 10 million rural Americans receive Emergency Medical Services (EMS) care. There are 23,272 ambulance agencies in the U.S. with 73% of those reporting serving rural areas. A record number of ambulance services have closed across the country leaving 60 million people at risk of being stranded in a medical emergency.

SNMH is one of the few hospitals that owns their ambulances. Fully committed to serving the community, these ambulances serve a population of 75,000 residents in Grass Valley, Lake of the Pines, Alta Sierra, and smaller regions such as the towns of Washington, Rough and Ready and North San Juan.



In addition to serving our region’s emergency care calls, over the past two years, these ambulances recently assisted at the Jones, River and Bennett fires. In addition, they have deployed to assist with the Paradise fire, the Dixie fire and the Caldor fire, and the Oroville dam crisis.

The SNMH ambulance program is licensed through the CA Highway Patrol which is licensed by the Sierra Sacramento Valley Emergency Medical Services Authority. The State of California has a 250,000 cap on allowable mileage for ambulances, which is a reason there is turnover in the fleet.




The department has 56 employees with one-half being EMTs and one-half paramedics. There are three supervisors for every 24 hours. For each call there are two staff members, an EMT, and a paramedic. If there is a significant incident, a paramedic supervisor will come to the location.

There are eight ambulances in the fleet. Five run during the day and three at night. Penn Valley and Truckee ambulance services back-up SNMH’s program and our department reciprocates service for them. The rule of thumb is to have one-quarter of your fleet backed-up in case of emergency or disaster calls, routine maintenance, and other possible failures.

Fielding over 10,000 calls a year, nearly 6,500 patients are transported to the hospital accounting for 21% of the total emergency department patient volume. There is an 82% transport rate. Eighteen percent are cared for onsite or won’t go despite medical advice. Each ambulance makes approximately 1,200 calls a year and will transport approximately 825 of those patients either to our hospital or another facility.

Our ambulance program is a gateway to our community and an integral part of caring for those that need emergency care. This means staying current with the latest technologies, equipment, supplies and a vehicle that can manage difficult terrain. In an emergency situation, you want to know help is on the way.


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