News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, JULY 3, 2006


Upgrading emergency services win-win answer

The May 29 incident in which a wreck victim became the focus of an ambulance company controversy at least has agencies thinking about how to provide better service.

The accident occurred outside Decatur city limit but near the police jurisdiction, which Decatur Emergency Medical Services serves exclusively.

Terry Garwood lives near the wreck site. He owns a rural ambulance service and was first at the scene to offer help, but not necessarily to transport the patient.

By the time Decatur Emergency Medical Services arrived, County EMS had the patient in its ambulance and was administering aid. The patient eventually wound up in the Decatur ambulance.

Thus, the issue of whether jurisdiction is as important as quickest response was reborn.

The director of the Morgan County 911 emergency center said this week that the closest ambulance should get calls in the jurisdiction.

But Decatur officials raised concern over the level of expertise and equipment that ambulance services located outside the city offer. The issue becomes more than jurisdiction; it apparently is the level of service offered and if going to a nearest-to-the-scene policy would be a setback for the quality of service in Decatur.

City officials seem to think service would suffer if they license the other companies to make calls inside the police jurisdiction.

But is there also value in making sure help arrives as quickly as possible?

A win-win solution would be for County EMS and Med-Call to upgrade services to the level of Decatur's, if indeed they are inferior. City and county residents deserve not only the quickest response but the highest level of emergency help. Because rural people are farther from a hospital should be reason for the quality of emergency personnel and equipment that serve them to at least equal that of the city.

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