Liberty County’s rural location, an aging population and a struggling economy make first responders’ jobs more challenging, Liberty Regional EMS Director Robyn Todd told Hinesville Rotary Club members during their Tuesday lunch meeting.
Todd described the 72 first responders she supervises as kids who enjoy playing pranks on each other when they’re not on duty. However, as soon as the tone goes off, signaling an emergency call, these “big kids” transform into super heroes, she said.
“These guys and girls are very dedicated,” Todd said. “They live and breathe EMS. They look forward to making a difference.”
Liberty Regional EMS has 39 paramedics and 33 EMTs, Todd said. EMS began as a county agency but was passed along to Liberty Regional Medical Center on Aug. 1, 1994, according to Todd.
Liberty Regional EMS operates nine licensed ambulances, Todd said. EMS personnel work in groups of two on 24-hour shifts every third day, the EMS director said.
Liberty Regional EMS ambulances are stationed at four locations across Liberty and Long counties. Ambulances are equipped with “state-of-the-art” advanced-life-support equipment, Todd said. The county owns the emergency medical services equipment, which is operated by Liberty Regional EMS, LRMC marketing director Rene’ Harwell said via email. Liberty County commissioners approved the purchase of a new ambulance for EMS last month.
Todd said Liberty Regional EMS has 18 advanced cardiac life-support instructors and 27 basic life-support instructors on staff. EMS offers first-responder classes to area fire and police departments, and is training Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputies in first-response techniques this week, she said.
Todd said EMS provides mutual aid to other counties an average of nine calls a month. Liberty Regional EMS soon will offer the drug-intervention team a tactical medic course, as they may encounter meth labs or other situations on drug raids, she said.
Todd said EMS crews’ peak time for calls is from 3-4 p.m. And Monday, not the weekend, typically is the busiest day of the week for EMS, she said.
The EMS director said Liberty County is classified as a rural county. The national average response time for a rural area is 10 minutes, Todd said. She said response time refers to the length of time it takes first responders to arrive on scene starting the moment an emergency call comes in.
Liberty EMS has an average response time — in the rural county — of 8.99 minutes, which is less than the national 10-minute benchmark, she said. Inside the city of Hinesville, response time is 7.09, which beats the national goal of 8 minutes, Todd said.
She told Rotarians that EMS is responding to an increasing number of cardiac emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes. Forty-nine percent of cardiac patients treated by first responders were 41 years old or older, she said.
Todd points to the poor economy as one factor in patients not seeking preventative medical care. She said people can’t afford health insurance, are ignoring their symptoms and might not be taking their medications as prescribed.
Liberty Regional EMS does more than respond to 911 calls, Todd said. EMS conducts standbys in partnership with fire departments for such situations as hazardous spills and will provide medical help if needed during high-school football games.
EMS participates in county-wide and multi-county exercises and drills, and provides education to patients and family members, Todd said. She recounted how one of her paramedics took note of what a diabetic patient had in her kitchen following a medical call. The paramedic presented the patient with a grocery list of healthy foods that she should be eating, Todd said.
For more information, go to libertyregional.org.