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Augusta’s Gold Cross ambulance response problems explained

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 7:29 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 7:48 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The East Central Health District’s facility is the only hospital in Richmond County that Gold Cross can transport patients to for mental health services. So whenever this hospital is at full capacity like right now Gold Cross must transport patients to other parts of Georgia which leaves one less ambulance in Augusta.

“I’ve called y’all since 7:30, ain’t nobody got here yet man,” said a 911 caller.

“I know sir we’re on the way, we’re almost to you we’re coming,” said Gold Cross dispatch.

It’s the difference between life and death.

“You know we’re getting calls now where people are waiting an enormous amount of time in very crucial situations...,” said Commissioner Ben Hasan, District 6.

After complaints over slow ambulance response times for months now Augusta’s EMS subcommittee has gathered data to examine the city’s relationship with Gold Cross EMS. Gold Cross has eight ambulances in Richmond County. They say if an ambulance isn’t tied up at the hospital sometimes one might be tied up with a mental health patient.

“I feel really short of breath, like I can’t think straight,” said a 911 caller.

From January to earlier today Gold Cross had received 1,475 psych or overdose-related calls. That’s 351 more calls than the same time period last year. And 522 more than that period in 2019.

While the East Central Health District is the only mental health hospital Gold Cross can transport to in Richmond County there is a mental health facility, Serenity Behavioral Health. Gold Cross can transport there but the two facilities actually work together for patient care. Right now the hospital is six patients overcapacity. So if Gold Cross got another call they’d have to transport the patient to one of six other facilities ranging from two to four hours away.

“I’m trying to get off the floor I can’t move man, I have a kidney infection man...,” said a 911 caller.

“So moving forward with our conversation to be about the quality of service that we can anticipate how do we know where our ambulances are?” said Commissioner Hasan.

The sub-committee will meet one last time this Monday to finalize their presentation which will include all of the issues they’ve identified and possible solutions. That will help the full commission when the time comes to discuss the expectations for Gold Cross.

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