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SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2007

How fair are the panel’s rankings when evaluating Decatur EMS service?

By Eric Fleischauer · 340-2435

Buried in the Decatur ambulance controversy is whether Decatur EMS, ranked last by the EMS panel, is really the worst service.

Six of the seven EMS Committee panel members rated Care Ambulance 25 percent higher than its competitors. Behind Care, in order, were NorthStar EMS, Rural/Metro, Lifeguard, Lifecare and Decatur EMS.

The panel included no accountants, but 20 percent of the score involved the financial stability of the various companies.

The corporate structure of the competitors varied dramatically, making an apples-to-apples comparison difficult.

Barnes Lovelace, lawyer for Decatur EMS, said the evaluation also was flawed because the panel weighed promises by competitors with minimal history in Decatur.

“It’s nice to promise the world,” Lovelace said. “Decatur EMS has been operating here for 12 years, and it’s never had a lawsuit filed against it. Improve what you want to improve, but don’t take a chance on an unknown.”

At Wednesday’s EMS Committee meeting, much of the fuss was over the fact that Decatur EMS does not have 12-lead heart monitors.

A 12-lead monitor, more expensive, is much better at detecting an impending heart attack than the three-lead monitors Decatur EMS uses.

12-lead monitors

Lovelace said his client has been trying to install 12-lead monitors, but has wanted to make sure they are compatible with Parkway Medical Center and Decatur General Hospital so his client can transmit the heart information en route.

“Decatur EMS has not caused one bit of the delay in getting 12-leads,” Lovelace said.

Med-Call President David Childers said his paramedics regularly save lives because they use 12-lead monitors.

Communication of the results to the awaiting hospital is a benefit, he said, but the most important factor is communicating the impending heart attack to the on-ambulance paramedics.

Care Ambulance’s Dell Gamble said Decatur EMS’s failure to install 12-lead monitors is inexcusable.

“We’ve been dealing with 12-lead monitors since 1994,” he said.

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