Monroe Township fire chief proposes solution to slow ambulance response times
Slow ambulance response times are a serious problem for rural southern Indiana communities as average wait times are often over safety standards.
MONROE TOWNSHIP, Ind. (WDRB) -- Slow ambulance response times are a serious problem for rural southern Indiana communities.
"I can't say that it has cost somebody their life right this moment, but it's only going to be a matter of time,” Monroe Township Fire Chief Mark Furnish said.
His small town has seen some shocking ambulance response times in just the last week. Data from the Clark County Office of Emergency Communications is revealing. It shows a 36-minute response for a fall, a 21-minute response for a sick call and 20 minutes for an overdose call three days in a row.
"It's a very life-threatening situation right now,” Furnish said.
Most ambulances in Clark County are responding from Jeffersonville or Clarksville, which is about a 20-minute drive.
"If we had a squad in our own community that was run by our fire department, they would be on scene within four to six minutes or less,” Furnish said.
It’s a move that would raise taxes but could save more lives. He said ideally his department would have an Advanced Life Support ambulance service, which would cost over $600,000 per year to run out of his fire house.
Right now, Clark County has a no cost contract with Yellow Ambulance, meaning it does not pay the company for EMS services. Yellow Ambulance makes money through individual runs.
It’s not just an issue with Yellow Ambulance. Furnish said that slow response times have been a problem with several of the county’s providers in his 35-year career in emergency services.
"They have to crunch numbers, and the numbers are not in Monroe Township," Furnish said. "And I understand that as a business person, but as a fire chief, my concern is safety."
Yellow Ambulance did not return our request for comment Tuesday, but Clark County Commissioner Jack Coffman said response times are an issue.
"Clark County is growing very quickly, so response times are an issue throughout the whole county,” Coffman said.
Response standards are listed in Clark County's contract with Yellow Ambulance. For life-threatening emergencies, ambulances should be arriving on scene in 10 minutes for 95 percent of calls. The industry standard is eight minutes, and the contract says that should be achieved at least 80 percent of the time.
"As we see these times increasing, it becomes more and more serious to us, and we will be addressing those situations with our vendors and looking at their contracts,” Coffman said.
Coffman said the county commissioners will be looking at all possible alternatives to remedy the situation before raising taxes. He wants to know if more ambulances could be required to be stationed throughout the county through the current contract.
"We are taking this very seriously, and we’re going to be acting on it as quickly as we can,” Coffman said.
Furnish, on the other hand, wholeheartedly believes that investing money into an EMS service will better help his community in life-and-death situations. He said the overall goal would be to implement a county-wide EMS service like those in other surrounding Indiana counties.
"The quicker you can get somebody to the hospital, the better off they are,” he said.
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