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Fire chief implements new policy on first responders

911 Dispatch Center to send fire department's first responders

Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 10:04 PM
Last updated Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 2:52 AM
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Starting next week, the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department’s first responders will be dispatched by the city’s 911 center because of worries that they are not being requested as needed from the city’s ambulance service.

Fire Chief Chris James put the policy into place after 911 Dispatch Center Director Dominic Nutter told him of his concerns about Gold Cross EMS.

“My people told me they had noticed Gold Cross wasn’t asking for first responders as often,” Nutter said. “I believe they have been asking for them less in general.”

In the new procedure, the dispatchers will refer to a list of 16 situations and send the fire department’s first responders automatically. Currently, they have to be requested by Gold Cross, except in four specific situations: CPR in progress, drowning, gunshots and stabbings.

The new policy says Gold Cross can still request first responders, too.

Gold Cross owner Bo Pounds said he does not believe his dispatch center has been asking for first responders less often.

“I don’t care what they send,” he said. “They can do whatever they want, as long as they leave room for the ambulance.”

Shortly after James became interim fire chief, the department’s EMS director at the time, Matt Paynter, presented a policy to James that he said was in compliance with the city’s contract with Gold Cross in which the ambulance service would be responsible for requesting first responders.

After Nutter and James met on the subject, James said he consulted with some of the fire battalion chiefs, the fire department’s lawyers and the EMS director, Dr. Phillip Coule of Medical College of Georgia Hospital. He said the policy came out of those conversations.

“I just want to make sure the citizens are getting the quickest medical attention possible,” James said. “We have 19 strategically placed fire stations. The chances are we can get to the situation faster than an ambulance.”

The policy also says Gold Cross cannot cancel the first responder unless they are on the scene and have “obtained sufficient information to know that a Fire First Responder unit is not necessary.” It says the 911 Dispatch Center should confirm the ambulance is on scene. Even in that situation, the first responders are to stay in route, but without lights or sirens.

James was concerned that first responders were being called off when Gold Cross was not on the scene.

“We don’t need to delay emergency medical attention,” James said. “I believe this policy will ensure the citizens get the quickest medical response.”

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Georgialina
7441
Points
Georgialina 09/07/12 - 11:18 pm
3
0
@ SemperP

As I read this article, I was forming my thoughts and then I read the comment of SemperParatus and must say "you wrote my comment for me" Even down to the part about the UH Ambulance Service. The only change could/would add is that instead of good patient care Bo Pounds is only concerned about money!

SemperParatus
3225
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SemperParatus 09/07/12 - 11:32 pm
3
0
Gold Cross owner misguided

The Augusta Chronicle removed my original comments regarding Bo Pounds, the owner of Gold Cross Ambulance Service, so I will restate my point.

Pounds clearly indicates by his comments that he doesn't care if the Augusta Fire Department responds or not. That's flies in the face of good patient care.

It is my hope that University Hospital will regain control of the ambulance service as some point in the near future.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 09/08/12 - 07:47 am
2
0
If you can believe TV......
Unpublished

Fire trucks, HAZMAT, police, rescue teams and ambulances respond to any emergency call in other locals. "What is your emergency?" Often there are more emergency vehicles than normal traffic. Good or bad? Overkill? "Someone" in a position of knowledge and authority used to make a judgement based on the emergency. The ambulance call is about $1000. Government vehicles called would result in untold monies spent.

If the fire truck gets to the scene faster that ambulance or police, we are in trouble. But we knew that already.

And the "my people" remark is over the top. County employees? Condescending at the least. Sounds like he has been listening to OB.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 09/08/12 - 07:48 am
2
0
Political posturing
Unpublished

My people need to be involved in everything in ARC. Ergo, I am involved in everything in ARC.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 09/08/12 - 09:29 am
2
0
Good Comments SemperParatus

May be an bi-annual services review should be on the commissions agenda?

Back in the 80's I worked briefly for a private Ambulance service, handling radio dispatching. We monitored the scanners for 2I's (accidents with injuries) and shootings, and etc..
The stated goal was to steal every call we could from University, with many times arriving way ahead of University. Although the private ride cost more than University, people wanted help then, there and NOW. They were successful because neither the hospital and/or the county deployed enough Ambulances to properly service the non-city areas.

So I understand the current situation, but with mixed feelings. Private business did it better than downtown controlled services back then.

With Doctors, Trinity and University Hospitals in the area now.
Returning to a hospital run service would eventually present a conflict of interest for best and closest care.

While I don't know what long ago political or private agreement was worked out to place Gold Cross at Fire Stations? I feel if they are allowed space they must come under the direction and control of the Fire Dept.

BTW: having an Private Ambulance service, has a lot less conflict of interest, than the old days in Augusta. At one time we had a Funeral home running a Ambulance service also.

rmwhitley
5542
Points
rmwhitley 09/08/12 - 08:55 am
1
0
I know Mr. Pounds
Unpublished

and can assure you that money is the issue. I don't pretend to speak for him because he's quite eloquant. The money issue is : all of the calls to the hood, stumped toenails, free rides to doctors appointments and feigned ailments that cost you, the taxpayer. I won't mention all of the knifings and gunfights. Now, while your first responders are making sure Miss Bessie makes her doctors appointment, your house has a greater chance of burning to the ground. I know. Been there. Done that.

Gothamist
26
Points
Gothamist 09/08/12 - 09:51 am
2
0
LONG OVERDUE- Why wasn't an

LONG OVERDUE- Why wasn't an engine company responding on a difficulty breathing , chest pain call already???Here's a thought, do not renew the contract with Gold cross, consolidate EMS within the fire dept like most cities have done. This WILL SAVE TONS OF MONEY for multiple reasons as the revenue generated from the transport will go directly to the CITY. Efficiency is an understatement in implementing this move, the ambulances can be housed in the firehouses and will operate in tandem with that associated engine company (efficiency) and manpower can be redistributed accordingly. Win for the patient and a win for the taxpayer.

Waymore
103
Points
Waymore 09/08/12 - 09:57 am
2
0
Stealing calls...

I remember those days well. And I always thought that it was a dangerous thing to do. Dispatching calls based on what you heard being dispatched over a scanner. It frequently resulted in responding to calls 10-18 (lights and sirens) when not necessarily needed. I remember going on scene and specifically stating that an ambulance was not needed, and minutes later that private ambulance service came sliding up sideways anyhow.

Little Lamb
45354
Points
Little Lamb 09/08/12 - 10:57 am
2
1
Difference

I had a different thought about the article. Gold Cross is doing triage when they get a call. If they think they can handle it entirely, then there is no need for an ambulance and fire station personnel. If Gold Cross thinks they will need assistance, then they have 911 dispatch fire station personnel.

We need someone with judgement and discretion to make the decision. I don't like this automatic knee-jerk decision here. It will be a waste of taxpayer or patient money to dispatch both fire and ambulance on every single medical call.

It seems like Chief James just wants more overtime money for his employees because the overtime is costing him nothing.

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 09/08/12 - 01:15 pm
1
1
wait

Just a few months ago the fire department was complainingthey were called on by gold cross too much. Make up your mind. Its so funny how James doesn't talk or try to work eith Gold Cross. He just goes to the. Paper.

TrulyWorried
13511
Points
TrulyWorried 09/08/12 - 01:39 pm
2
1
My sincere hope is

that no one has to suffer because to this squabble going on -

TCB22
622
Points
TCB22 09/08/12 - 07:42 pm
0
0
Voice of reason from Little Lamb

Thank you Little Lamb for hitting the nail on the head. Go ahead and mess up your contract with Gold Cross and get ready to pay millions more and that doesn't count the liability costs which Augusta does not now have to deal with. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Don't let Chief James screw up the ambulance service. Augusta can't afford to keep digging holes they can't get out of.

InChristLove
22468
Points
InChristLove 09/08/12 - 08:36 pm
0
0
I suppose I see it

I suppose I see it differently because I've been through a situation where the fire department first responders arrived way ahead of the ambulance EMS which saved my husband's life when he had his heart attack. Ambulance got lost and first went to wrong location, arrived as the first responders were stablizing my husband and only were needed to transport him to the ER. Personally I was thankful the first responders were dispatched.

TCB22
622
Points
TCB22 09/08/12 - 08:57 pm
0
0
If you have an endless pot of

If you have an endless pot of money, go with Chief James "Strategic Plan" which he presented to the commissioners in January 2012 when he was still interim. Look at the equipment on the ambulances and look at what you will have to buy to match it. Once you let your private service go, you will pay heck to get it back when all of the complaints start coming in because firefighters are fighting fires and doing rescues and don't have the folk to send to your husband's heart attack. Be wise people.

kissofdeath
397
Points
kissofdeath 09/09/12 - 01:42 am
0
0
Augusta Commissioners need to

Augusta Commissioners need to end their contract with Gold Cross ambulance service because they are (getting over like a fat cat) overcharging patrons for rides in Richmond County. My mother( senoir citizen) rode in a Gold Cross' ambulance for a severe stomach pain, and she only live 3 miles from University Hosptial ER and they sunt her bill for $760.00 that's a rip off.

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