Georgia County Government - January/February 2012 - (Page 21)

Feature Regional EMS: Opportunities for Better Service and Lower Costs? By Dave Wills I n response to the directions of the dispatcher, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and medics run to the ambulance, start the engine, turn on the lights and siren and race out to do what they do best — provide emergency medical care to those in need, whether due to accident or illness. But at what cost? Despite the strong public support usually enjoyed by emergency medical services (EMS) and the benefits provided, in this era of strained budgets, it is time to ask hard questions about how to create greater efficiency in the EMS profession. Scattered throughout the state are more than 226 ground ambulance services, five air ambulance services, nine neonatal transport services and 88 medical first responder services. They are a mixture of both public and private services. In densely populated areas, a single shift on EMS may respond to calls almost continually, while in less populated areas, the average call volume can be less than one per day. Every EMS should operate in an efficient manner, but this is especially difficult for small services operating in sparsely populated areas. One option to enhance operational efficiency is through the regionalization of EMS. county usually pays a subsidy. Thus, any inefficiency creates higher costs for taxpayers. • No matter how small the operation, the need for a backup ambulance is ever present. While the average daily call volume may be very low, an EMS may receive multiple calls for assistance. Incidents such as a mass casualty demand more ambulances than tend to be available. Mutual aid agreements can address some of these situations, but at the expense of longer response times because ambulances located in neighboring jurisdictions are not usually immediately proximate to where they are needed. • Compliance with federal and state laws governing personnel issues requires effective management by EMS Directors. With potential litigation or the filing of a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lurking around every actual or perceived infraction, an EMS director must be up to date on the latest developments in order to follow the law. • Proper use of continually evolving technology requires everimproving skills of management and medics. With the introduction of laptop computers onboard and transmission of vital patient data from an ambulance to a receiving hospital via the Internet, every director and medic must understand the technology in order to get the best results because patient outcomes may depend on it. Opportunities Challenges A number of issues represent challenges to efficient operation of EMS, including the following: • In services with low numbers of transported patients, it is difficult, if not impossible, to generate sufficient revenues to cover fixed and variable costs. Therefore, operations must be subsidized by taxpayers, usually from the county’s general fund. In addition, capital costs are often paid through special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) revenues. Even when the service is provided in a rural county by a private EMS, the While the issues identified above represent challenges to the efficient administration of EMS operations, the regionalization of EMS may offer solutions, such as: • Having just one director, resulting in immediate cost savings compared to each existing EMS having its own director. He or she would likely devote full attention to management of personnel and operations, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, including those involving personnel. Operational REGIONAL EMS continued on page 22 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012 21

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - January/February 2012

President’s Message
Director’s Desk
Guest Editorial: Together We Stand
Harris County: Smart Investments Paying Dividends for the Future
EMS Delivery Models in Georgia
How New EMS Technologies are Improving Patient Care
Regional EMS: Opportunities for Better Service and Lower Costs?
EMS Leadership Course Planned
Washington D.C. Update
Georgia Public Safety Radio Systems Must Transition to Narrowbanding
Fulton County Public Works Recognized with APWA Accreditation
Extension News: Teens Solving Community Problems
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - January/February 2012