N.C. EMS Crews Working on Bettering Response Times



Sept. 09--Twenty-four hours a day, seven ambulances are in full operation in Burke County. Racing to the scenes of accidents, the paramedics swiftly work to save lives, and get victims the help they need.

Sometimes, their efforts are thwarted when the ambulances and crew members are asked to make non-emergency transports.

"We do a lot of convalescent transports, taking someone to the nursing home. Seldom is their stuff critical," said Greg Curry, EMS manager said. "If there's a patient at the hospital that needs to go to Lenoir, essentially it's one hour there, one hour back."

Curry said this year, EMS staff has tried to quicken response time and not use emergency response vehicles for convalescent transports.

"Our biggest focus this year is getting our response time down," Curry said. "Whatever we can do to get response time down, we'll do."

Recently, Curry approached Burke County with the need of a convalescent vehicle.

"We needed to get a truck that is solely designed for convalescent," Curry said. "We took this to the county manager."

Curry said County Manager Bryan Steen helped EMS create a solution for the convalescent need.

Around that same time, Curry said Blue Ridge HealthCare and hospital administrators approached EMS with a need.

Often, patients who were being transported home or to a long-term care (LTC) facility had to wait on a free ambulance.

"This caused a patient back-up in the Emergency Department where patients who had been admitted had to wait on an empty bed," Kathy Bailey, president and CEO of Blue Ridge HealthCare, said. "Sometimes it was very late before we could get a LTC patient transferred and they wouldn't have time to get oriented and comfortable before bed-time. Our patients and families expressed their displeasure at the long wait times."

EMS found a convalescent solution in the form of a Dodge van that had been used as an ambulance. The vehicle has the same capabilities as an ambulance, but is smaller than standard ambulances.

"We streamlined, we already utilized that ambulance," Curry said. "We took that vehicle offline."

That ambulance was reconverted and two EMTs were hired to operate the vehicle and care for convalescent patients.

"They will be doing nothing but convalescent transports," Curry said.

Nikki Taylor and Sean Miller are the EMTs operating the convalescent vehicle.

They find the convalescent transport vehicle to be an asset to the services provided by Burke CountyEMS.

"I'm excited about it and the county has been needing it," Miller said. "I've been in dispatch for 14 years and it will be a great asset."

Across Burke County, agencies think the vehicle, which will begin convalescent transports on Monday, will be an advantage in serve citizens.

"We are thrilled to work collaboratively with localEMS to put this transport unit in place," said Bailey. "This will benefit patients with more timely transfers from hospital to long-term care facilities."

Copyright 2013 - The News Herald, Morganton, N.C.