Both EMS meet state guidelines

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2003

As citizens in Andalusia continue to follow the emergency medical services situation involving the City of Andalusia, Faith EMS and Andalusia Rescue Squad, some question the validity of some of the "concerns" raised, qualifications of both rescue services and whether or not citizens will have a choice in selecting their ambulance service with the city's proposal to follow-through with a bid and contract process with one provider.

Although Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan denied a temporary injunction that would have prohibited the city from continuing with the contract process, the case very much remains open in court with the final verdict yet to be rendered.

In a story printed in Wednesday's Star-News, Anda-lusia Mayor Earl Johnson was quoted as saying, "Because there had been issues in other cities with competing ambulance services where both would show up at a scene and squabble over who would rescue the victim, we didn't want that to happen in Andalusia. That's ridiculous, because if you have someone waiting on immediate medical attention, that person doesn't need anyone fighting over who would rescue."

According to Steven Kennedy, deputy director of the State EMS Board, that concern is the over-inflation of one incident in 25 years.

"There have been numerous verbal conflicts after a patient has been treated and transferred to a hospital. It happens in all professions - doctors squabble over treatment, but only once that we know of has a physical altercation occurred where patient care was compromised," Kennedy said. "That was a well-publicized event that made national news, where two rescue workers were fighting over a patient on the Interstate (65) and the patient's care was not put first. Both of those have had their licenses revoked. There has not been another reported instance of any situation where anything like that has occurred."

Concerns about quality of care have also been raised.

"The state doesn't require emergency medical responders to carry the 'jaws of life'," Johnson said in the story. "We wanted whoever responds to calls to have the proper equipment, so they wouldn't have to track down another service."

Kennedy said there's nothing wrong with municipalities wishing to go above and beyond state regulations as long as it is for the benefit of patient care.

"We care about the patients," Kennedy said. "We can't deal with generalities. We'll license 800 ambulance services in Andalusia as long as they meet state qualifications. There is not a certificate of need process for ambulance services in Alabama.

"As for quality of care, both Faith EMS and Andalusia Rescue are fully licensed and qualified," Kennedy continued. "There have been no formal complaints filed against either one to the best of my knowledge. We can fully understand any city trying to go above and provide better care. We're not in the business of telling city fathers what to do. We are patient care advocates and as long as both providers maintain exceptional care, that's fine."

Kennedy was asked specifically about complaints, because Doug Tisdale, owner of Faith EMS have told him they heard someone filed a complaint against the service.

Tisdale says that's not true, and Kennedy confirmed that.

"Neither Andalusia Rescue nor Faith EMS have had a formal complaint filed against them," Kennedy reiterated. "Both are qualified to operate as emergency rescue services."

As for the "jaws of life" statement, that wasn't a part of the bid let by the city. In fact, according to a copy of the bid proposal obtained by the Star-News, no where in the bid is the "jaws of life" extrication equipment mentioned.

It's also a moot point, as both rescue services in Andalusia have the equipment.

Concerns have also been raised about dispatching ambulances in emergency situations and who would respond.

Currently, there is a rotation system in place through the Covington County E-911 system which handles all of the dispatching for every entity in Covington County except the Andalusia and Opp Police Departments.

"Right now, everything is handled on either a request basis, or on a rotation," said Susan Carpenter, director of Covington County E-911. "There have been no problems with the rotation system. If someone calls in and says they have a preference, then that service is dispatched. If they don't have a preference, we use the rotation which is one for one.

"It's not a complicated process and it's been working," Carpenter continued.

Will the rotation system continue in Andalusia remains to be seen though.

"The city (Andalusia) is coming up with a contract on how they want it to work in the city limits," Carpenter continued. "We don't know what they process and contract will be because we haven't seen a copy of the proposed contract. When we find out, we'll make a decision on the process."

Currently, there is a contract process in place in Covington County - in Florala.

"Florala has contracted with Opp Rescue to provide services in the city limits of Florala," Carpenter said. "Opp Rescue provides all services in the city, plus any emergency calls that happen within their 'zone' which is on the US 331 side of the county. On the Alabama 55 side of the county, emergency calls to Florala are handled on the rotation basis by either Andalusia Rescue or Faith EMS."