New private ambulance service running smoothly and responding more quickly, EMS director says

Decatur EMS ambulanceVisitors to a recent Decatur County Board of Commissioners meeting had the chance to check out the inside of a newly refurbished ambulance that is being used by Decatur EMS.

Since Grady EMS of Atlanta began operating Decatur County’s EMS as a private service on Sept. 1, a couple of Decatur County’s older ambulances have been sent up to Atlanta to undergo the remounting process – the ambulance box is placed onto a newer truck chassis, the equipment inside the ambulance is updated and the vehicle’s paint scheme is redone to match a uniform design.

Decatur EMS’ director, Randy Williams, updated commissioners on the progress of the privatized EMS service.

He said Decatur EMS responded to 334 calls in September. 296 of those were 911 calls and 36 calls were interfacility transfers from Memorial Hospital in Bainbridge to another hospital.

Also during September, 262 patients were transported, 54 refused to be transported and 18 calls were cancelled prior to EMS’ arrival.

Decatur EMS Director Randy Williams, an experienced paramedic with approximately 15 years of experience
Decatur EMS Director Randy Williams, an experienced paramedic with approximately 15 years of experience

The average response to 911 calls in September were 8.7 minutes. Decatur EMS’ contract calls for response times of 12 minutes or less for priority 1 calls (“which is your life-threatening emergencies where seconds literally count”) 15 minutes for priority 2 calls (“serious but non-life threatening”) and 20 minutes or less for priority 3 calls (non-emergency calls).

“Me personally and as a citizen, I’m very pleased with that response,” Williams said.

For inter-facility transfers, the overall response time was 6.7 minutes.

“Those are good times for inter-facility transfers as well because are main priority is 911 calls for Decatur County … pending 911 calls take priority over the transfer. And just as soon as we can get a unit freed up, then we’re going to immediately go to the hospital to transfer that patient to definitive care.”

Williams again thanked Decatur County commissioners for authorizing a major renovation of EMS headquarters on Airport Road. Decatur County Prison inmates supervised by Warden Elijah McCoy basically stripped out the interior of the building and renovated it to be a high-quality, safe living and work space for EMS employees.

In response to Commissioner Jan Godwin, Williams said the EMS substation in the Fowlstown community, where one ambulance is stationed around the clock, is “going good.”

“Naturally, it’s a lot slower down there as far as call volume, compared to [Bainbridge], because most of our calls are within the city limits. However, for the calls that we have received down there, it’s been very beneficial. It’s significantly cut down response times to the southern end of the county.”

Watch Randy Williams’ EMS presentation here: (~ 6 minutes, 30 seconds)

Commissioner Oliver Sellers asked whether Decatur EMS had responsed to any mutual aid calls since becoming a private service in September. Williams said Decatur EMS had responded to several mutual aid calls to Seminole County. He said having three ambulances on-call 24/7 has proved adequate so far for Decatur County.

County Administrator Gary Breedlove reviewed the process of moving to a private EMS service, managed by Grady EMS of Atlanta. In early 2013, the public EMS service (managed by Decatur County commissioners) was operating at a loss of almost $500,000, Breedlove said. (County officials have said in the past that a large portion of that operating loss stems from billing and collection issues.)

In August of 2013, county commissioners received a proposal for a privatized EMS service with two ambulances running 24/7; that proposal would have cost $440,000 per year.
Decatur County experimented with running 2 ambulances 24/7 and a third operating 16 hours out of the day in September 2013. In March 2014, county officials commissioned an EMS assessment in March 2014.

“In my view, that assessment prompted some movement [from the private ambulance services] and we received some lesser numbers. And we are now with Grady EMS at $250,000 a year. And if they decide to leave or we ask them to leave, it’s still our equipment.”

“It’s been a long, deliberate journey .. but I think we’ve come to a good place with EMS service in Decatur County.”
Williams agreed: “Our main objective here is to provide high-quality care to citizens of Decatur County at a very cost-effective price, and that’s what we aim to do.”


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