Emergency patients choosing Morgan
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
So far in 2008, 67 percent of the Morgan County patients picked up by National EMS—the medical services company that responds to local emergency 911 calls—have been transported to Morgan Memorial Hospital.
“A few years ago, those numbers were only at 50 percent,” said Huey Atkins, director of National EMS, in a report to Morgan County commissioners last week. “We had people asking us not to take them to Morgan Memorial—we just don’t hear that anymore.”
About 13 percent of National EMS’s local transports wind up at Athens Regional, seven percent at Newton Medical Center, four percent go to Walton Regional Medical Center, and three percent go to St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens. Three percent are life-flighted to regional trauma centers, one percent end up at Minnie G. Boswell hospital, and about four percent of patients are treated without transport.
According to Atkins, the average National EMS response time in Morgan County is about eight minutes; in calls that took longer than eight minutes, said Atkins, distance is almost always a factor.
Current rates for ambulance transport are $525, plus $11 per mile. Those rates sound steep until patients realize that the actual cost of the call before any profit is made hovers around $460, said Atkins. In addition, much of an EMS service’s profit is written off each year in service to customers who can’t pay.
“Ambulance services write off about 40-60 percent of the services that they provide each year,” said Atkins.
Asked by commissioners about the apparently growing number of patients that are transported by helicopter—at upwards of $11,000 per trip—Atkins acknowledged that this was a growing trend. National EMS does not own or operate the helicopter services that operate in the region; those helicopters tend to be owned by private companies that market their services to sheriff’s departments, police departments, fire stations, and emergency personnel across the state.
“I assure y’all, we are very conscious of the cost of a helicopter,” said Atkins. “There has to be a legitimate threat to life or limb for us to call a helicopter.”
“You do a good job, and we’re glad to have you,” said Morgan County commission chairman Mack Bohlen.
In other county news, road crews are preparing for the annual application of dust-control measures to the region’s dirt roads. Nearly 25 miles of unpaved road will be treated with one of two products
“]The coverage] represents 23 miles total, 18 miles of calcium chloride and five miles of Coherex,” said Michael Lamar, county manager.
Roads slated for treatment with calcium chloride include portions of Mallory Road; Sowhatchet Road; Wallace Road; Indian Creek Road; Walton Mill Road; Malone Road; Walker Road; Wallace Grove Road; Shady Side Lane; Perriman Road; Briar Creek Road; Plainview Road; Old Mill Road; Double Bridges Road; Armstead Road; Jordan Road; Binford Road; Innis Fail Lane; Vernon Lane; Preston Ford; and Callaway Circle.
Roads slated for treatment with Coherex, a petroleum-based dust inhibitor, include Weaver Jones Road; Bethany Road; Plantation Road; Jones Wood Road; and Hightower Road. Contact the Morgan County Board of Commissioners at 706.342.0725 for more detailed information on which portions of these roads will be treated.