I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: Who's picking you up in an emergency?
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Gold Cross and the Augusta Fire Department are working together to provide service to the county after battling each other over the ambulance zone, but a potential new law could create chaos once again.
It took 1,680 seconds for an ambulance to get to Donna Martin. National EMS is the ambulance provider in Morgan County, Georgia but it never showed up. “It took 30 min for her to get an ambulance from an outside county other than the one she lived in and she passed away as a result,” said Julianne Thompson.
Thompson says she believes a lack of transparency and accountability ultimately lead to Martin’s death. The director of National EMS, the ambulance provider that should have responded to the 911 call, is also a member of the Region 10 EMS Council.
“I think the way the system is decades old the way that the system was set up, in general, has been flawed from day one.”
The EMS system is divided into ten regions in Georgia. Each region has a council which chooses the ambulance provider for the area. The state allows ambulance providers to serve on the council.
“There is no way for it to be fair or transparent when you have vendors who service the area their executives sitting on the councils who are in charge of hiring.”
Augusta is part of EMS Region 6. The COO of Gold Cross, our current provider, serves on our council. Chief Chris James is the chairman of the council. The fire chief wants his department to become the ambulance provider.
Thompson says she thinks that’s the reason for slower response times and providers with older equipment.
"If we make these changes it's a good step in opening up transparency."
The Georgia Ambulance Transparency Project is working with legislatures to change the law.
This month House Bill 2-64 was introduced. It would require EMS executives to register with the Ethics Commission.
Ambulance providers would also adhere to certain safety standards and provide monthly reports to the council. It also bans ambulance providers from serving on the council, but only private providers – not public.
That means Gold Cross would no longer be allowed to serve on the council, but Chief Chris James would.
"Competition is good for citizens and it's most certainly good for patients and response times."
Donna Martin's family and others will be speaking at the state capitol Thursday on EMS reform.