Set up for recovery

CJ Vaughan, left, and Ryan Felish are part of the Lake Havasu City Fire Department’s Community Medic Program which works on the preventative end of emergencies by making home visits to discharged hospital patients to ensure proper aftercare.

Usually when Ryan Felish jumps in a fire vehicle there’s an all too familiar sense of urgency to get to his destination.

The Lake Havasu City Fire Department captain understands that in his business, time plays a factor in saving lives.

But when he’s traveling in the department’s alternative response vehicle, there’s a sudden ease about that trip because recently he and a few of his cohorts have been working to save lives from another end.

The LHCFD and EMS have seen success from their Community Medic Program, which involves teams of two using an alternative response vehicle to make non-emergency medical follow-up visits to Havasu patients that have been discharged from the hospital.

“It’s neat that it’s the first time we get to prevent emergencies,” Felish said. “You get to spend one-on-one time with people. We’re sitting with them, we’re talking with them. It’s a big change from our day to day work.”

The teams make home visits to patients who have recently been treated for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, which are the two diagnoses that have the highest number of hospital readmits, according to Felish.

Felish said this is probably because patients may not know when to switch recommended medications or what symptoms require immediate attention among other examples that can make aftercare confusing.

These visits, which are free of cost to patients with their consent, are meant to go over the vital information they need to recover and remain healthy.

The checklist includes going over discharge paperwork to make sure the person understands what to do, in addition to reviewing medication instructions and making sure patients set up timely visits with their physicians.

The teams also conduct a home safety inspection to help patients with issues such as unforeseen mobility problems following their release or to make sure smoke detectors are working properly.

“I’d like to call us the missing link from being discharged and seeing their primary care physician,” Felish said.

The department’s Fire Chief Dennie Mueller said it’s a program with multiple community benefits.

Within the six-month initial pilot program, of the 129 patients visited, only seven were readmitted back into the hospital or about 5 percent of patients. That’s much lower than the national average of 30-day readmissions for COPD, which ranges from 17 to 25 percent, according to the National Association for Medical Direction of Respiratory Care.

Mueller said the program also helps reduce the 911 call volume, which according to Felish has dropped for the first time in four years within the six months.

The program also reduces the hospital’s volume for emergencies that patients can easily avoid and saves both patients and taxpayers money, according to Felish.

Firefighter CJ Vaughan said the program has certainly been a change of pace for him.

“We’re always reactive to an emergency,” Vaughan said. “This is past the emergency stage. Now we’re focusing on how to set them up for success.”

Vaughan, a native of Prescott, said he always knew he wanted to be in the emergency medical field to help people.

He remembers when he made a difference for a patient through one of his visits after noticing the man exhibited symptoms that required a doctor visit within 24 hours.

“He didn’t know about (follow-up) doctor visits and couldn’t be seen immediately,” Vaughan said.

So Vaughan was able to communicate with the doctor by offering his special opinion and was able have an appointment set up for the patient the next day.

He also remembers when he used a formula to help a patient determine how much oxygen he needed to get him through to his next visit.

“It feels good that we’re helping them in a different way than we’re used to,” Felish said.

The program is expected to be expanded to reach more at-risk patients in the near future, according to Mueller.


(7) comments


fun, i really doubt this is 'filler' time, you really think fire wont be hiring additional for this


You have fireman sitting in stations all day long mostly doing nothing, 97% of calls for the fireman are medical calls so this fits in well. I have seen fireman in the past couple of months wondering around Walmart, shopping at Penney's gathered at a restaurant where they were there for well over an hour. They definitely have time for this. They are the most under utilized employees the city has and the time waiting to go to a fire, maybe 1 a year, can be utilized doing something good for the community. Congrats to whoever at the FD put this together.


Sounds like a good program to stay in touch with our precious seniors. As for the local hospital -- whether you like the place or not, no acute care hospital
sends out staff to visit patients. This appears to be a good program which
overall saves the taxpayers money.


couldnt agree more lakelife dubld is to blame as much as the hospital, fire is looking to bump their revenue stream as well


Wait, I'm confused.....under the new health care laws, isn't it the hospitals responsibility to ensure proper follow up? And shouldn't the costs for those follow up visits be absorbed by the (for profit) hospital that received payment for patient services? Is the hospital paying the city to provide these services or are our public tax dollars being used to help save a private company a few bucks. Who do I need to know at the city level to get the same kinda deal for my business?? Aren't our public services already being stretched too thin? If the hospital is legally required to provide follow up care to its post op patients, shouldn't they be footing the bill for it, not the taxpayers?
I could use 4-5 of our city workers to help me at work with some landscaping, sure would help keep my labor costs down.


great program for the hospital, they get better readmit rating and don't have to foot the bill, for-profit you gotta loveit


Anybody think firefighters should just fight fires? I like the idea of the program but who signed off on it? Who went over the budget numbers? What was LHC COPD readmission average before this program(not the national average)? How much did the call volume drop for these cases(numbers are key)? Are the firefighters getting full hourly wage during this? Does this mean there are more firefighters on full-time now? More equipment? More training?
I admire Mr. Felish & his hard work but maybe he should be a doctor and not a firefighter. Anybody can sell the positives of a program like this but I'd like to know how the taxpayers are specifically benefiting from this & not just the patients...who in my mind should be taking care of this without the fire departments help.

For every 911 call or hospital re-admission saved, this program should be able to prove how its beneficial. Running equipment, having personnel on payroll, training & being ready on-call for emergencies all cost $ for this program, so what's the $ amount we're saving for having it?

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