School officials had a change of heart Tuesday in the use of ambulances at football games.
The Richmond County Board of Education reversed a July 26 decision that discontinued hiring ambulances to stand by on the fields and replaced them with two emergency medical technicians on foot with safety gear.
The change was originally implemented to save the school system $24,000 a year.
On Tuesday, board members said the money was not worth the risk and voted 8-1 to bring back ambulances to the sidelines. Board member Jack Padgett was the only one opposed; Barbara Pulliam was absent.
“We came forth with what we thought was a good idea ... now we’re here saying that turned out not to be a good idea,” Controller Gene Spires said.
Some confusion came up about how much time is actually saved after an injury by having an ambulance on the sidelines.
The Georgia High School Association, which governs most school athletics for the state, does not require school districts to have ambulances on hand, but ambulance services have certain policies about how they would handle an emergency.
Officials for Gold Cross EMS and Capital City EMS, which both provide ambulances for games, have said that for a nonlife-threatening injury, an ambulance would wait to take a patient to the hospital until a second ambulance arrived on the field to cover the rest of the game.
Only in a life-threatening situation would it take off immediately.
Originally, Deputy Superintendent Tim Spivey said the time it took for the sideline EMTs to attend to an injury and call for an ambulance would be comparable to the time it would take for the on-site ambulance to wait for backup to arrive.
When the board voted to do away with ambulances, though, many in the community objected.
Richmond County Council of PTAs President Monique Braswell said many parents, teachers and PTA members called her with concerns.
“I think ambulances should have been there all the time,” Braswell said. “Not to discredit the EMTs ... I think they do a wonderful job, but having that physical engine on site is crucial.”
Capital City Chief Tom Adkins said ambulances are important to have on hand because the EMTs attend not only to players but also to families and spectators in the stands.
“There’s always liability whenever you’re hosting any kind of public event,” Adkins said. “When it’s at night and you’re in a stadium, there’s potential for not only injuries on the field but also off it. Does having an ambulance there do away with those (risks)? Not always. Does it help at least moderate the liability? Absolutely.”
The school system will pay Capital City $175 an hour for games at Butler, Cross Creek Glenn Hills and Hephzibah high schools, and Gold Cross $120 an hour for games at the Academy of Richmond County, T.W. Josey, Lucy C. Laney and Westside high schools.
The district would have paid Augusta Fire Department EMTs $18 per hour instead of using the ambulances.
Board President Alex Howard said he would like to look into using EMTs in place of ambulances for the 2013-14 school year, but with football season approaching later this month, he said there was not enough time to work out the logistics.
“Football is starting, and we need to get ready for that,” he said.