Ambulance transports quicker, public still questions process
Following up on a year-long discussion about local hospital transports, the Morgan County commissioners sought a service update from hospital, rescue squad and transport officials last Thursday, December 15.
Their primary focus was how long it takes private ambulance companies to transfer patients from War Memorial Hospital to other regional hospitals when they need additional care.
Valley Medical Transport does the majority of transports out of War Memorial Hospital, though a number of other private companies also provide the service locally.
Chris Rucker, Director of Valley Medical Transport, said his company has reduced their response time from an average of 46 minutes down to 33 minutes in November.
“100% of them were under an hour,” Rucker said. “Things are going really
well. We certainly track and want to improve our metrics.”
Commissioner Brad Close asked how many patients would be needed at War Memorial to justify having a transport unit posted there full-time.
Rucker said the facility would likely have to double the number of transport calls in order for that to happen.
Squad and transports
Three local residents questioned the relationship between the local rescue squad and medical transport companies.
Doris Fleece described a recent emergency with a pregnant mother where a transport delay caused the family great distress.
Fleece said the local rescue squad had taken the mother, who was bleeding profusely, to War Memorial even though she wanted to go to City Hospital, where her obstetrician practices.
“She was sent to City Hospital in a personal vehicle. The rescue squad refused to transport them to City and I want to know why,” said Fleece.
“Why can’t you transfer from War Memorial to City?” asked Dorothy Beeler, who identified herself as the grandmother of the patient.
Patient choice, doctor advice
Todd Songer, from the Morgan County Rescue Service, said the squad recommended the mother be taken to Winchester Medical Center, which was the closest hospital with advanced care for babies and deliveries.
When the patient refused to go there, the physician at West Virginia Medical Command directed the rescue squad to take her to the nearest hospital – War Memorial.
“We took her to War Memorial Hospital to stabilize the bleeding. At that point, the patient is the hospital’s patient,” said Songer.
Beeler questioned why her granddaughter had to go to the local hospital when her doctor and the care she wanted were in Martinsburg’s City Hospital.
She also asked why the local emergency room doctor couldn’t have delivered the baby.
“In an emergency situation, he could have. He felt the best place for her to be was in front of her OB/GYN,” said War Memorial President Neil McLaughlin.
“Within 10 minutes, we wouldn’t have had a baby or a granddaughter,” said Beeler.
“We didn’t have a choice to pay an ambulance fee, but you all have a choice of where to take people,” she said.
“I think the rescue squad does a great job, but this kind of thing stinks. It has to be fixed,” said Fleece.
“We certainly don’t want people to get in a private vehicle, making decisions about their own medical care,” said McLaughlin.
Fleece said she had heard a patient could sign a waiver, allowing them to specify which facility to be taken to in an emergency.
“If she was bleeding profusely, she wasn’t stable enough to sign that,” said Todd Songer.
“I understand that patients want to see their own physicians, but in a distress situation, that’s not always possible,” Songer said.
Rucker and McLaughlin asked if they could meet with the family of the mother to answer any further questions.
All of the parties expressed relief that the mother and baby were healthy and came through the situation.
Resident Kevin Sites asked if the rescue squad had provided a cost estimate for upgrading its license and training to be able to perform inter-facility transports.
Commission President Stacy Dugan said the squad had done that, and that would cost nearly $500,000.
“At this time, I don’t see any future for them doing transports,” said Dugan.
Another transport service update is tentatively scheduled for June 2012.