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EMTs to replace ambulances at Richmond County football games

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 To save money, the underfunded Richmond County school system will not have ambulances at middle and high school football games this season.

Instead, two emergency medical technicians from the Augusta Fire Department will be on the sidelines.

School officials say the move will save $24,000 a year and not pose any safety risks to the public.

“(The EMTs) would have anything they would need in case it’s a catastrophic injury or noncatastrophic,” Deputy Super­intendent Tim Spivey said.

In the past, an on-site ambulance was required to wait to take an injured patient to a hospital until a second ambulance arrived to be available for the rest of the game, Spivey said.

Now if a person is hurt, the fire department EMTs would tend to the injury and call an ambulance if necessary. Spivey said there are ambulance stations within five minutes of all middle and high school football fields, so patients will not have to wait longer to be transported than they did before the change.

The Georgia High School Association, which governs most school athletics for the state, does not require members to have ambulances on site. The Columbia County school ystem has ambulances only for varsity football games, according to Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway. For junior varsity and middle school football, the district relies on CPR-certified coaches and automated external defibrillators for heart problems before an ambulance is called for an emergency.

George Bailey, Richmond County schools’ athletic director, said he is comfortable with the EMTs replacing ambulances because they will have equipment that includes spine boards and fluids.

He said the ambulance service bills parents for transport, so many parents in the past chose to drive injured players themselves.

“Having the EMTs from the fire department would suffice what is needed on the field for football games,” Bailey said. “While football is a dangerous sport, I think everybody agrees with that; we can have serious injuries at just about any sport that we play – baseball, wrestling, track and field – but there’s no ambulance service at those events.”

The Richmond County Board of Education approved the change July 26 after Controller Gene Spires said it would save $24,000. The district spent $34,660 last year on ambulance services but could cut that by 70 percent to 80 percent by using EMTs.

The school system will pay each EMT $18 an hour per game, which would come to $36 an hour for two officers.

Augusta Fire Chief Chris James said the school system’s public safety department approached him about using EMTs.

“This is not something we solicited,” James said.

Because the EMTs would be on special assignment and not on the clock for the fire department, James was unsure whether they would be covered by the county’s workers’ compensation insurance in case of injury.

He compared the football job to a police officer working after hours providing security for a restaurant.

Matt Paynter, an accreditation coordinator for Gold Cross, said his company is concerned that the school system did not give it an opportunity to bid on providing EMTs.

Though he agreed that the EMTs could properly handle an injury, he said the special duty puts EMTs at risk.

“Unless the fire department is saying they’re on the clock for them, they don’t fall under the fire department’s medical direction,” Paynter said. “We wouldn’t put our people at that kind of risk.”

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Just My Opinion
Just My Opinion 08/07/12 - 03:39 pm
Well, this is just common

Well, this is just common sense. Especially the no-brainer part about the on-site ambulance having to wait until another ambulance arrives anyway....absolutely no time saved in doing that! Might as well just have the EMT's on site and call for a wagon.

KSL 08/07/12 - 06:21 pm
Aiken High used to have a

Aiken High used to have a doctor on the sideline at all home games. I'm certain they were volunteering. A friend of ours who graduated from MCG said you could pretty well tell the specialty a person would choose based on their personality. It was interesting to us to watch the first actions a doctor on the sideline would take, knowing what their specialties were, with an injured player.

Georgialina 08/07/12 - 07:47 pm
A No Brainer

This has always gave me a cause to pause. I could never understand the need to park a wagon at a game since in most cases one is housed just minutes away.
In my humble opinion having a couple of special duty EMT's at each game is good enough. A certified EMT has the knowledge to determine if a bus should be called or not. Good move RCBoE (That's something I don't say very often!)

curly123053 08/08/12 - 08:18 am
In my 22 years as an EMT I

In my 22 years as an EMT I covered a lot of football games in Aiken and Barnwell Counties standing by with an ambulance and crew. We were only needed less than 10% of the time for transports out of the stadiums. These transports included football players the majority of the time, cheerleaders being injured in their acrobatic stunts next, and then fans injured in falls or having medical issues. These EMT's need to be prepared to cover anything more than football injuries when 1,000's of folks gather.
Also, these EMT's need to have a medical control director thay can reach by cellphone or radio for direction in serious injuries and illnesses. I remember an injury a player suffered during a football game at Aken High with less than a minute left in the game. The player was complaining of neck pain and had slight tingling in one of his arms. We decided to use full spinal precautions including neck collars and spine boards. The coaches wanted us to walk the player to the sidelines so they could play the last minute of the game. They even had a local doctor come out of the stands to tell us it was okay to move the injured player to the sidelines to immobilize him. We got our medical control doctor on the radio to tell that doctor to let us do our turns out that player had a cervical fracture, and any unnecessary movement would have paralyzed him. As it turns out, that player made a full recovery.
It will be very important for these EMT teams to have a medical director to call on when they are being pressured to take shortcuts in the name of time to get the game going again. This could be a big liability for the RCFD as these EMT's will be from their department and most likely wearing the uniform.
Other than all that I see no problem not having an ambulance at every game. These EMT teams need have a medical control doctor to contact when needed.

cheapster505 08/08/12 - 10:05 am

meanwhile back at the soccer field or baseball baketball no wait necessary so if your going to get injured? make it football

twalker449 08/08/12 - 11:06 am
While on the surface this may

While on the surface this may seem a good decision, one needs to look at reality to see what a disaster this is just waiting to happen. 1) while yes, the on site ambulance will wait for another unit for transport so that the game can continue, by no means would any unit delay transport if there was a serious injury. 2) So there are stations only 5 minutes away from all stadiums/ Did it ever occur to someone that those ambulances are subject to other calls, and therefore , and I can guarantee you this, will most likely not be on station if needed at the stadium. 3) Who will the EMTs out there on their own be practicing under? All EMS personnel must be under the license of a physician to practice. Being out there on ones own means only being covered under the Good Samaritan Law, which will not cover you if you are out there in a paid position. Anyone here recall the near tragedy a few years ago where a football player nearly died from an injury where no ambulance was on standby?

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