Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Athens have been privatized since 2009, when National EMS (now owned by Priority EMS) took over running our ambulances and medical 911 calls. We’ve already documented how this has led to consistent failure to meet response time obligations. The profit motive seems to have caused a focus on the more lucrative non-emergent transport jobs at the expense of timely emergency response.
So, what can we do about our unreliable ambulance service in Athens?
A popular ethics and transparency bill recently came before the Georgia legislature. House Bill 264 would have applied strict, new transparency and ethics protections in EMS delivery. It passed the House 148-6 and the Senate 51-0. In the eleventh hour the bill was effectively poisoned when an individual representing narrow, moneyed interests (such as Priority EMS) put a rider in the bill that was so outrageous that no member in either party could support it. So, a bill that had cleared both houses (199-6) was not even voted on.
This was unfortunate, but we are hopeful the bill will pass next year. Until then, there is a lot we can do locally to address this issue.
You can see a list of our local priorities for EMS reform here. Our Priority #1 is, “All 911 EMS Emergency Responses will be handled exclusively through our state of the art 911 Athens-Clarke County Dispatch Center.” Right now, if you call 911, you will have to tell your emergency twice, to two different agencies! This is confusing, inefficient and potentially life threatening. It needs to stop.
We have learned that a study was recently completed by ACCPD about community needs regarding 911 dispatching. The conclusion of the study was that “ACCPD Central Communications (911 Center) will process and dispatch EMS calls received through emergency telephone lines. ACC Central Communication will operate under emergency medical dispatch (EMD) protocols and provide medical instruction to callers.”
So, our top priority for EMS is already endorsed by the Police Department!
The recommended option of both ACCPD and A4E will enhance efficiency, increase transparency and save lives. It unfortunately has not been prioritized by our elected officials so far. The commission is currently debating the FY 2020 budget, so now is the time to focus their attention on this extremely important public safety reform.
Please email Mayor Girtz and your commissioner today!
Dear Mayor Girtz and Commissioner _______,
I am writing about the proposed FY 2020 budget for Athens-Clarke County and to let you know that I am concerned about our privatized ambulance service. People in need of emergency assistance shouldn’t have to explain their emergency twice — it causes delays and puts people at risk.
Our own police department has recommended that we switch to a central communication center and take over dispatching for all 911 calls. I agree with this idea and I want to urge you to find funding for it in this year’s budget.
There are so many community needs currently lacking funding, so I understand this can be a tough decision. But public safety is a core responsibility of government. Residents of Athens need to know that, in their moment of greatest need, help will be on the way as quickly as possible. Right now, this is not the case. Please address this issue as soon as you can.
Thank you for all the work you do for our community,
In fact, it couldn’t hurt if you want to go ahead and email them all!
Please share this post with friends who might care about the quality of emergency health services in Athens.
Athens for Everyone
May 6, 2019