To the Editor:
This letter is in regards to the September 8, 2011 Free Press Standard article, “Why?”
The tragic death of Mr. Cooper due to poor ambulance response continues to show the outdated “contract” driven Emergency Medical System, Carroll Countians ultimately fall victim to. One can wonder “what if….”, one will never know. However, having to wait 20, 30, 40 and an almost unbelievable, 60 minutes for an ambulance should not be one of those “what ifs” a family should ever have to wonder. For those that don’t know, in a cardiac arrest or other life threatening emergency, brain and cell death begins as early as 4 minutes without respirations or good circulation of blood. How likely is it that a person that has to wait 30 minutes for an ambulance is going to survive that event, the answer: it is virtually non-existent.
In order for a private ambulance company to make any money in Carroll County, they must have contracts or other instruments in place that they can use to make that money. Nursing home contracts, “individual” memberships and transporting of non-emergency patients to and from hospitals, doctor’s office visits, and dialysis, just to name a few. Every single one of these non-emergency transports takes an ambulance out of Carroll County for a MINIMUM of 2 hours. These are all money makers for the service, though not a lot of money, it is still a for-profit activity. Carroll County is not that robust of a county that a private, for-profit company, can survive on emergencies alone. Every time an ambulance does one of these non-emergency transports, the county residents are gambling as to whether another ambulance is available for the emergency that could happen at any time. Not only available, but close enough to make a difference and save a life.
Unfortunately for the citizens of Carroll County, as noted in the article, citizens have to wait sometimes over 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive while they are transporting these non-emergent patients or are based on the furthest point in a township from the location of the call. As sad as it is, I wrote a letter to the editor on the same issue 4 years ago, and not one change has occurred.
It is finally time for Carroll County to wake up from their 40 year sleep with good ol’ boy networks and get with the program. Take that leap into the 21st century and stop relying on private ambulance companies to take care of its citizens by equipping and staffing the fire departments (FD) with EMT’s, Paramedics and ambulances. Again, not every station would be available to handle every emergency, at every time, but in those instances, a private ambulance could be used to supplement the local service. Or, instead of using a private for-profit company, use a mutual aide company. Common sense should prevail that when an address is 4 miles from a station and the caller has to call 4-5 times and still no ambulance, the dispatcher should be empowered to make that command decision to save a life versus paying attention to for-profit contract borders. Another reason to do this, beyond the obvious of being public safety and saving lives, MONEY. If the local FD billed for their service, that would mean more money for the village/county for its programs, community enhancements and other items.
In summary, let’s start doing for ourselves what we have been relying on others (or hoping others will do) for way too long.
Kyle Lyons, MPH, RN, NREMT-Paramedic