Ambulance shortage needs addressed

Editor’s Note: The following editorial will appear in this week’s edition, July 26,  of The News Observer. It is being published early here because it addresses a critical issue that occurred last week, an issue we believe the Fannin County Board of Commissioners should act on immediately. Without this information before they meet Tuesday evening, July 25, the point of urgency is missed. Please let the commissioners know your thoughts on this matter. Thanks for reading.

A huge warning surfaced last week, but the inexcusable situation has given Fannin County’s commissioners a golden opportunity to fix a problem before it happens again or becomes worse.

Last Tuesday evening, Fannin County Emergency Medical Service found itself with only three ambulances for the four stations in the county. Three ambulances out of the fleet of six were suffering mechanical problems and had to be taken out of service.

The shortage continued for at least two days.

Ambulance service response to patient needs did not suffer, as rescue trucks were used to reach individuals in need. But transportation for those patients – along with transfers to and from area hospitals and to out-of-town hospitals – were delayed or even canceled.

While six ambulances should be enough to keep four stations running, this is not the case.

Fannin County’s ambulance service has experienced a large increase in call volume. The convalescent ambulance service that had been operating in the county is no longer here. With Copper Basin Medical Center not accepting patients, Fannin ambulances are often called on to bring patients from that hospital to Fannin Regional Hospital.

The county is growing and the population is aging, continually increasing the demand on local ambulances.

One of the current front line ambulances is already scheduled to be taken off line in September, replaced by a new unit, which the commissioners agreed to buy. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s one step short of enough. 

The move means the worst front line ambulance becomes a spare, and the worst spare is put out to pasture.

The remaining spare ambulance, as it has just proven, is not reliable. 

County department heads have long operated under a policy of “do the best you can with what you have and make your equipment last.” This is good, conservative government. But the safety and the health of the public should never be short-changed.

Fannin County’s commissioners: Chairman Stan Helton along with Larry Joe Sosebee and Earl Johnson, should agree to the emergency purchase of another ambulance, and they should do it now. 

Buying two new ambulances this year would be a huge improvement on overall reliability.

Don’t say the money doesn’t exist. Look at how much has been spent on the county’s Public Works Department so far this year. 

Ambulances are critical to saving lives. There is no excuse for a county as financially stable as Fannin not to have a fleet of reliable units.

Glenn Harbison
Publisher/Editor

The News Observer

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