Ready to roll

Published 8:54 am Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LEWISTON-WOODVILLE – Barring the unforeseen, Bertie County’s Emergency Services Department’s non-emergency ambulance transports will begin on schedule this Friday, Aug. 1.

Bertie’s EMS Division Chief Matt Leicester gave an update at the Bertie Board of Commissioners meeting last Monday in Lewiston-Woodville on the start-up of the transport service, saying everything was on schedule for the start date.

“At this point we have hired eight out of the 10 full-time employees and we have two others that are pending,” he said. He added that those positions would probably be filled by last week’s end.

“We have two trucks that are almost completely stocked, the rest of those supplies will be in (also at last week’s end) and the Office of EMS will be here to do the (state) inspections and certifications so we’ll have no issues with that,” he added.

Leicester said Colleton Software (Tarheel Medical Billing) would be here the week of start-up with their computers to do training with Non-Emergency Transport Coordinator Kim Campbell on the billing company’s necessary documentation and paperwork and would return at a later date for additional personnel training.

“(That’s) to make sure we are legal with our documentation and that they are getting exactly what they need to be able to process and keep us out of any liability issues from a documentation standpoint,” Leicester stated.

He added that Campbell will be meeting with administrators for the various facilities to be serviced by non-emergency transport getting out contact information and making them aware of the services provided.

“As it stands now with the schedule we’ll be doing two daytime trucks and one nighttime truck,” Leicester said. “We’ll be able to provide coverage 24/7 with no interruption.  If they call us day or night, Saturday, Sunday, (it) doesn’t matter.  Unless that truck is committed somewhere else transporting a patient we will have crews there to be able to respond to that.”

Cooper said Leicester and Campbell would be meeting this week with representatives of Vidant Bertie Hospital.

The Commissioners wanted to emphasize that the non-emergency transport is completely separate from the 911 transport.

“There’s a lot more rules and regulations on Medicare and Medicaid when you start dealing with non-emergency transport,” said Leicester. “The best thing we can do is keep those two entities separate.  We’re going to continue to have the four 911 trucks that we have.”

“Sometime later in the year we’re looking to having nine resources on the road,” said Cooper. “Four 911 ambulances, three non-emergency transports, the QRV (quick-response-vehicle), and now the car that we can outfit for anybody in the office because all of us are certified paramedics so if we need to get in a vehicle we can go.”

“The main thing that the citizens need to understand across the county is that come Aug. 1 (they) will have a new resource that is paid out of (their) tax dollars that can transport you in case of a non-emergency transport,” said Commissioner Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson.

A citizen present at the commissioner’s meeting asked how the county’s non-emergency service would differ from the private transporters and the response was there is none.

“Your insurance will still cover regardless of who you go to,” explained Leicester. “The biggest difference is instead of it going back into a private enterprise it comes back into the county to help offset this deficit incurred from the EMS system and help balance that back out and help keep some of the taxes from increasing.”

“911 is not a money-maker,” said Wesson. “Not here, not anywhere; it costs money because there are not enough emergency calls to pay for itself.  How is it paid for?  Do we tax citizens for the difference, or do we go into the non-emergency transport enough that it covers that cost; and that’s the decision that we made.”

The commissioners wanted to especially emphasize that they are non anti-private transport.  They also requested a profit-and-loss statement from the EMS department on a monthly basis to determine turnaround time on collections.

“Make sure we’re getting copies of that so we can see where it’s going,” said Trent.

“The (billing) company will be more than willing once we see cash flow to come in and put it on a chart for you,” said Cooper.

Leicester also updated the Commissioners on the county’s Emergency Services response times.

“For last quarter April 1st ending June 30th we ran a total of 853 responses with our average time from dispatch to getting en-route was 76 seconds, which is below our 90-second threshold,” Leicester said.

Other favorable numbers cited by the Division Chief included response to all calls less than 20 minutes at 94 percent and 96 percent for primary calls within the same time frame.

“That’s consistent so far for responses, year to date,” Leicester maintained, citing nearly 1,700 response calls so far in 2014. “We’re continuing on and our numbers are trending steady and we’re not seeing any major change.”

Leicester said there was one little uptick in response time (10.15 seconds, up from 9.64 in the last quarter) and that was due to personnel switching stations among the sites of Aulander, Colerain, and Windsor; and rotating crews with those switches.

“We’re trying to rotate everybody around,” he said. “We want them all to be familiar with every part of the county so that when we move people around they can be comfortable whether it’s Lewiston, Aulander, Colerain, Merry Hill, anywhere in between; as well as Windsor, we don’t want to keep people sitting in one particular spot.”

Commissioner John Trent inquired about a report of an ambulance that became disabled during a response call and a second vehicle had to be dispatched.  Leicester, in his update, recalled the incident and said there was no lapse in patient care and service during the wait time.

“The crew was there caring for the patient the entire time while we waited for the other crew to get there and we had no detrimental time,” Leicester stated. “This was a private road and it’s something which we do get into when we get off some of the maintained roads and its one of the risks of our business.”

The Chief further pointed out there are four-wheel drive vehicles that might avoid such a situation, but that they would be cost-prohibitive based on the vehicles’ amount of use.  He added there was only one other disabled ambulance incident and that was when a vehicle was stuck in the snow responding to a call last winter.

“Our paramedic was highly upset with himself because he thought he had done something wrong,” said Emergency Services Director Mitch Cooper, responding to the question of the disabled vehicle. “It had rained, and he was following the path and following procedure as he was supposed to.”