01/13/05 — Wayne emergency system working well

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Wayne emergency system working well

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on January 13, 2005 1:59 PM

Wayne County's emergency medical services system is better, faster and, in a sense, cheaper than the volunteer-run service it replaced, county officials say.

The EMS system has cut minutes off the average response time to the scenes of accidents and medical emergencies, county commissioners were told Tuesday.

And primary medical assistance is being provided by paramedics, the highest level of care certified by the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services.

"We made the right move at the right time," EMS Director Blair Tyndall said. "We have got a system that we can be proud of."

The goal of countywide EMS was to get better care to ill or injured people more quickly, Tyndall said. The ambulances would ideally be en route within a minute of a 911 call and respond to 90 percent of emergency calls within 8 minutes.

In the past year, the system received around 12,000 calls. The average response time was 6 minutes and 18 seconds, he said.

That number was inflated by two stations that may need ultimately to be relocated, he added.

In contrast, the average response time reported by the county's rescue squads in 2000 was 9 minutes and 24 seconds.

Also, EMS sends a paramedic on the first ambulance responding to an emergency. Most of the squads were certified only to an emergency medical technician-intermediate level, which is a level below paramedic.

And while EMS is more expensive, it generates revenues through ambulance billing, officials noted.

Previously, the county was giving about $1.5 million a year to the rescue squads.

This year, the county has budgeted $3.4 million for EMS. It was expected to collect around $1.5 million in ambulance fees, but revenues may be closer to $2.1 million, Tyndall said. Additionally, the county is trying to collect around $600,000 in old debt.

The system transported around 8,400 people last year. The average bill was about $420. Prior to the start of EMS, all transports were free.

The county is also now handling all 911 calls.

The 911 telecommunications center received more than 360,000 calls in the past year, said Communications Supervisor Delbert Edwards. On average, a 911 call is received every 88 seconds.

About 72,000 of those were emergency calls, he added. That's an average of one per every 7 minutes 18 seconds.

The 911 center has six dispatchers working at any time. Their goal is to properly dispatch all calls, meaning sending the right agencies and backup to the right address, in less than two minutes, Edwards said. The current average is 1:28.

Cell phones continue to be a challenge, he said. The county has mapping software that will allow dispatchers to locate cell phone callers, but the center has not yet received state approval to use it.

The county commissioners launched their EMS system in June 2001 after receiving a report critical of the rescue squads that were then primarily responsible for ambulance transports.

The first county ambulances began operating in March 2002 in Seven Springs. Today the EMS system has 9 stations -- Seven Springs, Fremont, Grantham, Rosewood, Dudley, Mount Olive, and three in Goldsboro.

Firefighters and rescue squads still perform most rescue duties, such as extracting people from wrecked vehicles. Rescue squads still operate at six locations in the county. Volunteers also staff two first-responders squads.