Mayo Clinic opens 2nd dispatch center to prepare for COVID-19 |

Mayo Clinic opens 2nd dispatch center to prepare for COVID-19

Alice Keefe
Created: April 27, 2020 06:49 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Before health care workers on the front lines can give care to patients, COVID-19 related, or otherwise, there are a handful of gatekeepers playing a vital role to keep the system going.

“Our emergency medical dispatchers are often the very first voice of Mayo Clinic that our Mayo Clinic patients and families hear. We’re considered to be the first first-responder,” said Karen Novak, manager for Mayo Clinic Ambulance Service Emergency Communications.

Which makes keeping the 40 or so people working in shifts around the clock, 24/7, healthy during this pandemic essential.

“We’ve talked about this for 15 years, standing a second location as a backup if needed,” said Cami Thalacker, senior systems manager for Mayo Clinic Ambulance Information Technology.

Creating a second dispatch center, in addition to the primary location on the St. Marys campus.

“About a month ago we started planning and working toward creating an alternate location,” Novak said.

A location that keeps dispatchers more socially distant, prepares the division for a surge and calls and serves as a fallback location in the event the pandemic makes its way into the main dispatch center, a feat that would usually take months.

“If we had months, we would’ve taken months to get a secondary location up-and-running, but we didn’t have that. It was really important to us that we turn around this project quite quickly,” Thalacker said.

Getting the second site at an ambulance base in Rochester up, which has three work stations that supplement the 12 at the primary location, took a lot of technical work, linking both locations with direct fiber connections, installing software, and making sure the phone and radio systems worked.

“We do not lose any audible quality or experience any degradation in what our 911 callers are expecting to hear from our dispatchers,” Thalacker said.

Work on the second site started in mid-March, and four weeks later, the location was already up-and-running, keeping dispatchers, first responders, and the community safe. 

When the pandemic is over, Novak said it will likely be used for training and as a back up to the primary call center.

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