Now more than a year into the county’s control of EMS, the drastic staffing shortages are easing, Liberty EMS director Crystal Hensler told Liberty County commissioners.
The county took over EMS operations in September 2021, and EMS has gone from being at half-staff last September to having an opening for a paramedic and an opening for an emergency medical technician. Filling those two slots may enable Hensler to pull supervisors, currently also serving on those trucks, back into their roles.
“We are looking to put two paramedic and one EMT supervisors off the trucks, so our supervisors can be evaluating our medics,” she told county commissioners recently. “And they can do a true evaluation because they can evaluate all their team members. Right now, they’re on trucks, they’re on 911 calls.”
Hensler said Friday is the busiest day of the week for EMS calls in 2022, but Tuesday was close behind. The busiest times during the day for EMS are from 3–8 p.m.
“That’s when most of our traffic accidents occur,” she said.
Of the calls EMS handled last year, more than half were patients treated by EMS and taken to a facility. The next highest percentage was patients treated at the scene who then refused transport to a facility for further care.
EMS also had a combined 19% of its calls end up as no patients found or EMS not being needed after all.
“We see that a lot in traffic accidents,” Hensler said. “Because it’s a traffic accident, everyone gets called, police, fire, EMS. We automatically get dispatched and en route and or as we arrive on scene, there is no patient or need for EMS.”
Hensler said EMS can’t pick and choose which calls it answers.
“Once we’re contacted, we have a duty to respond,” she said.
EMS also has to deal with calls where there is no patient to treat or take to a hospital. As an example, they have gotten called to respond to a residence where someone needs help and needs to be lifted. Hensler said cutting back on those kinds of calls has to start at the state level.
False alarms also are common place, especially with medical alert badges that get pushed and activated accidentally.
“That happens a lot actually,” Hensler said.
For 2022, station 1 responded to 5,840 calls and station 2 in Midway responded to 2,645 calls, though those don’t show where the calls originated Station 1 has responded to 5,840 calls and station 2 has responded to 2,645 calls What this doesn’t show, that there weren’t — that could mean they were called in to Hinesville for a call. Also, transfers from one facility to another fell from 750 in 2021 to 591 in 2022, though the numbers for the last five months of 2022 were higher than those from the final five months of 2021.
Last year, Liberty EMS made 174 requests for mutual aid, and Bryan and McIntosh counties were the most apt to respond, Hensler said. Mutual aid from Liberty County was requested 236 times last year, with Long County being the most frequent to make a mutual aid request.
Hensler said they try to help as much as possible but they want to make sure there are ambulances available in the county.”
“Do we always respond to a mutual aid call? No. We want to make sure our county is covered first,” she said. “We do not accept a call unless we have at least three units available in our own county.”
Hensler also warned that the EMS could take on a mutual aid call and then get two 911 calls right after that.
She added she and former county finance director Kim McGlothlin set a budget for EMS at around $2.9 million. That budget has enabled the EMS to buy uniforms for its staff.
“This EMS clothing is the most expensive clothing I will ever own,’ Hensler said.