Augusta’s EMS subcommittee address ambulance response issues

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 7:44 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - When you call 911 every second can feel like an eternity. After our I-Team investigated complaints about ambulance response times, for the last few months several Augusta commissioners have been gathering information about Augusta’s ambulance situation. Today they finalized their findings about Gold Cross.

Well some of the data the committee initially set out to gather they still couldn’t get their hands on. Much of that was needed straight from Gold Cross. Still, they were able to gather enough data and information to determine the holes in the city’s current agreement with Gold Cross and find solutions to make sure those holes are filled.

From the call to the transfer of patient care. Augusta’s EMS subcommittee’s findings proved one thing, the current agreement with Gold Cross has a few holes.

“We had no measurables in place, this time we will,” said Commissioner Ben Hasan, EMS subcommittee chairman.

Right now Gold Cross has eight ambulances in Richmond County, but the city has no way to track if those ambulances stay in the county. Committee members proposed requiring a minimum of 11 total ambulances in the county during peak hours and eight all other times. They also want to look into adding a system for tracking available ambulances. And establishing a contract administer to overview Gold Cross service.

“We can anticipate some additional costs but at the end of the day, if our citizens are going to be safe in the most stressful time of their life when they need emergency care I think that’s a good cost,” said Commissioner Hasan.

The contract administer would monitor response times, complaints, and care quality to make sure Gold Cross is meeting the set expectations. While the meeting did fill holes, some feel it left other rocks unturned.

“I think the subcommittee could have been a little more stronger in their objectives,” said Commissioner Dennis Williams, District 2.

According to Augusta Fire, of the 4,342 ambulance transports they did in 2020 the city only received payment for 2,733 of those. Gold Cross says less people are paying the bill too. That’s why they need more than the $650,000 the city pays them to cover that cost. But Hasan says before they talk price, the care needs to be where it should be.

“Historically we’ve always looked at this from a financial perspective, but this time we approached it as a quality of service product. That’s the first priority,” said Commissioner Hasan.

In an email Interim Fire Chief Shaw Williams J.r. says:

Moving forward, in order to ensure that our citizens get the highest level of service they deserve, I suggest that we do the following:

1. Determine the number of units we want in service at peak hours and non-peak hours.

2. Determine the level of service we want on each unit, i.e. EMT Basic, AEMT, Parademics . . .

3. Develop or purchase a system to track the number of available units.

4. Have periodic reviews of the service provider’s progress.

5. Have a quality control component to ensure good customer service.

6. Develop a strong contract administrator to monitor the service provider’s commitment to our citizens.

The subcommittee’s proposed solutions will go straight to the full commission for a vote on August 3. If that’s passed the city administrator will sit down and negotiate the terms with Gold Cross. Commissioner Hasan says we should expect some changes in the expectations, but he believes the city and Gold Cross will work together for the better.

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