Coastal residents can expect to see another ambulance on their side of the county and hopefully reduced response times in the coming months, according to Emergency Medical Service officials.
During the Liberty County Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 19, EMS interim director Robyn Todd said a round of studies conducted by the department indicates greater need for an ambulance than the one that is currently stationed there.
The information was presented along with updates on Liberty Regional Medical Center from by CEO Scott Kroell.
“We had a good year,” he said. “Revenue was above budget — significantly above budget. I think that reflects that we’re seeing a growing economy, and we’re getting better doctors in town.”
He then clarified that the economic growth is a result of population growth.
Both revenue and operating expenses were above budget, but the margins remain tight as fewer people retain medical benefits, which lead to an increased indigent care load, he said.
In November, the Liberty County Hospital Authority cited a $2.9 million deficit in its indigent care operations as the reason to raise the millage rate from 3.1 to 3.25 mills.
Kroell introduced Todd, who spoke about the state of EMS.
“We’ve been doing some monthly studies on the calls on the east end …,” she said. “Basically, what we’ve been seeing is the east end runs the second largest, as far as the total amount of calls, to Hinesville.”
Not only do they have a large volume of calls, but they also have the largest amount of turnaround time, partially because of the area of coverage and partially because many east-end patients request to travel to hospitals outside the county, she said.
“During that extended turnaround time, we’re having to shift a truck from Hinesville to respond to calls from Midway area, which is increasing response time for those calls,” Todd added.
The solution is to move one of the three trucks from Hinesville to Midway from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., which will not require purchase of another ambulance or any expansion of the crew facilities because only one truck’s staff will stay overnight, she said.
“That should help to decrease response time greatly, so over the next couple weeks and months, you’ll see a drastic decrease.”
If the workload on the coast continues to be overwhelming, a future solution is to get another unit that will be permanently stationed in that area.
There is also a unit that has been running out of the Walthourville Fire Department to cover western Hinesville, Gum Branch and Walthourville and to back up parts of Midway and Riceboro, she said. There are eight trucks in the fleet, but they are not all staffed.
Other LRMC reports from Kroell:
• The hospital recruited two physicians toward the last quarter of 2011: Dr. Ophelia Gherman, family medicine, and Dr. Kathleen Cools, OB/GYN. In 2012, the hospital is recruiting for pediatrics and orthopedics.
• The expansion to the hospital’s emergency room and obstetrics area is moving ahead, with HKS architects and contractor Brasfield & Gorrie. In July, Kroell said he anticipates the project will take 18-24 months to complete and will cost about $8 million.