Demands of aging population stressing Thurston County EMS, hospitals
Excerpt from The Olympian:
Thurston County’s aging population needs more care and that’s factoring into delays for emergency services, officials say.
Calls for emergency medical services (EMS) increased from 26,570 in 2013 to an expected 43,000 in 2023, said Ben Miller-Todd, director of Thurston County Emergency Services.
“We’ve had about a 62% overall growth over the course of 11 years in Thurston County’s EMS infrastructure,” Miller-Todd said. “That significantly outpaces the growth that we have in population. A lot of that is due to age.”
Thurston County’s population surpassed 300,000 in June, according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management. Citing figures from the Thurston Regional Planning Council, Miller-Todd said the county population may reach 370,000 by 2040.
Miller-Todd said the county’s median age increased from 29.8 in 1980 to about 37.3 in 2010. He also showed a population pyramid graph that showed how the the number of people in their 20s and 30s has declined.
Average EMS response times have increased along with growing call volumes. Miller-Todd said response times increased 12% from 414 seconds (about 7 minutes) in 2019 to 463 seconds (almost 8 minutes) in 2021. At the same time, he said more people are waiting longer than 45 minutes at the hospital emergency departments.
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