Hospital closing creates ambulance problems in Garrard

September 10, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - Before operations at Garrard County Memorial Hospital were suspended, there was a 26-minute turnaround time for ambulances, now the turnaround is an hour and 17 minutes. Several times three ambulances have been tied up out of town.

That's according to ambulance service director Colby Arnold, who asked the fiscal court Tuesday to increase the pay of part-time emergency medical technicians and paramedics to ensure more staff is on duty to meet increased demand. "What I'm asking the court to do is to increase the pay to bring in some help from out of town."

Arnold said that many of his part-time workers live in surrounding or nearby counties, where the pay is much higher. Boyle, Madison and other counties in the region pay between $11 and $15 an hour, he said. Currently, part-time EMTs in Garrard make $5.50 an hour and paramedics receive $7 an hour. Arnold requested the court increase that to $6.50 an hour for EMTs and $9.50 for the paramedics.


Arnold said that people are now relying on the ambulance service for their emergencies, since there is no longer any emergency room in the county. "Somebody's gonna be without an ambulance or somebody's gonna be without care," he said.

Arnold said five people recently walked up to the ambulance service office wanting to get care. He said people should call 911 instead.

Doctor James Werkmeister, standing beside Arnold because the court had just approved him as the new ambulance service medical director, told the court that the closing of the ER has changed how health care is offered in the county.

"A lot of people drive to the hospital. Now, we've added 15 minutes to that drive. We're going to have a lot more ambulances being used," he said.

"I think we will have someone put in harm's way because we will not have the staff that's needed," Werkmeister said.

Magistrate Joe Leavell suggested the court set up an ambulance board to make sure money is used properly. "I don't have the expertise for what you need," he said. No action was taken on that proposal.

"The county can survive without a hospital if you've got a good ambulance service," said Werkmeister. "You need to have the best manpower you can have. If there are gaps in service, at one point something bad is going to happen."

Arnold said another problem is that the ambulance service is having to spend more on supplies because they were being purchased at the hospital "at cost." Werkmeister said a bottle of Doxycycline costs $500, but purchased at the hospital it cost them only $24.

"It's like simple things like laundry. Bloody towels and sheets, before we could take them to the hospital and trade them out," said Arnold.

Magistrate Walter "Tiddle" Hester suggested the court approve temporary pay increases for several months, as the court waits to see what happens with the hospital.

The court agreed to increase the part-time pay, per Arnold's request, for a period of two months.

Along with the higher per-hour wages, EMTs and paramedics will be paid for each of the 24 hours they are on duty and they will receive $3 an hour for when they are on stand-by. Previously ambulance employees were only paid for 22 hours of the 24 hour day, as they are given two hours off time each day.

"I bet you $100 this will be a permanent thing," said Leavell.

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