Supervisors vote down measure to improve ambulance response times in Hinds County

Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 2:21 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Leaders have rejected a proposal that some say could improve ambulance response times in Hinds County.

On Tuesday, the Hinds County Board of Supervisors voted down a request to amend the county’s contract with AMR to provide Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance services for non-life-threatening situations.

District 1 Supervisor Robert Graham was disappointed with the vote, saying the decision would have meant more ambulances on the streets.

“Basically, it’s a shift of resources to improve efficiency and response time,” he said. “I wish that some of my other colleagues had taken a little bit more time to understand it.”

Voting in favor of the measure were Graham and District Two Supervisor David Archie. Opposed were Supervisors Vern Gavin, Credell Calhoun, and Bobby McGowan.

Board President Gavin said supervisors had not discussed the proposal prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

“We normally would consider a work session that will clearly explain the ins and outs of the program that they were proposing,” he said. “And secondly, we just entered into a contract with them... If it was a viable idea, it should have been included in the contract initially.”

Among concerns, Gavin questioned whether AMR would maintain as many advanced life support ambulances as it currently does if the contract was amended. He also was worried that the wrong ambulance could be sent to the scene.

“I would hate for your family member to be in a state of emergency... and you’re not getting the kind of care that you need,” he said. “I think it has to be more methodically thought out.”

Steve Peacock, regional director for AMR, said calls would still be routed through 911 and that after being triaged, the appropriate level of resources would be made available based on the severity of the case.

“The number of available paramedics is limited, and this proposed amendment would enable AMR to utilize the available paramedics and Advanced EMTs more efficiently, lowering the response times for patients suffering life-threatening illnesses and injuries,” he said.

As for replacing existing services, Peacock said that would not happen. “This would in no way replace our advanced life support responses but rather match our first responders more appropriately to the level of the care needed by patients.”

The amendment would have allowed AMR to staff some basic life support ambulances with two EMTs, rather than an EMT and a paramedic.

Those ambulances, in turn, would be able to respond to non-life-threatening situations, freeing up paramedics or Advanced EMTs to respond to more serious health emergencies.

EMTs are trained to administer first aid and provide life-saving services. Paramedics can do those things, as well as administer oral and intravenous medicines, read EKGs, stitch wounds, and determine what hospitals are best to send patients.

AMR Operations Manager Ryan Wilson told supervisors the change would not increase contract costs for the county, and that other counties across the state are doing the same thing. “This change just allows us to now deliver care that’s been approved by the state,” he said.

The request comes as AMR faces continued scrutiny over long response times.

It also comes as Jackson seeks to bring on its own contractor to provide ambulance services within the city limits.

Currently, AMR provides exclusive service to the county and all of its municipalities, including Jackson. The company’s latest contract was approved in 2016 and renewed in 2021.

Under the terms of that agreement, all of AMR’s ambulances must be staffed with a paramedic and an EMT, except in instances where mass casualties are reported or in cases where a disaster has been declared.

In those instances, the contract states that ambulances not staffed by paramedics can only transport individuals with non-life-threatening conditions.

Graham is hopeful the measure will again be brought up for a vote. Said Graham, “One of the things that we will make sure that it will absolutely do is improve response time, and that’s what you want in any emergency.”

WLBT Reporter Brendan Hall contributed to this report.

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