12 On Your Side: Does Columbia Co. need more EMS?

By: Elizabeth Owens Email
By: Elizabeth Owens Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Sept. 17, 2012

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. -- Seconds count when responding to a 911 call and one local emergency worker has a whole new perspective after it took an ambulance 19 minutes to get to her father after he had a stroke.

Jo Wolf is a critical care paramedic.

"You have a window with a stroke patient of three hours," Wolf said.

Last week, Wolf's father suffered a stroke. She began counting the minutes from when her father's neighbor dialed 911. It took Gold Cross EMS 19 minutes to arrive at her father's house.

"This is completely unacceptable," she said.

Vince Brogdon says he simply didn't have any available ambulances or even firetrucks nearby that day. He runs Gold Cross EMS, which is the private ambulance company contracted with Columbia County.

"Dispatch picked the closest appropriate ambulance, which was in the Appling area, to respond," Brogdon said.

He says says the situation was a highly unusual and doesn't happen often.

Wolf says otherwise.

"We don't have enough ambulances in the county," Wolf said.

Currently, Gold Cross runs five ambulances that serve 124,000 residents in Columbia County. That's more than a 35 percent population increase in just the last 10 years.

"How much longer will that hold in the future? I don't know," said Pam Tucker with Columbia County Emergency Management.

Tucker says the good news is that Gold Cross plans to add a part-time day ambulance to the fleet in October. She says another one on the road will help to at least temporally alleviate any problems.

Tucker says it costs taxpayers half a million dollars a year for the five ambulances with Gold Cross EMS. It would cost an additional $350,000 to add a sixth full-time ambulance.

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