The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Ambulance Frustrations Voiced At Meeting

By Sally Day for the Quill

Concerned ambulance and fire personnel and law enforcement officers gathered in Biggsville at the Presbyterian Church, October 1, 2014, to discuss the continuing problems facing these entities. The meeting was held as an informational meeting, but the frustration could be heard in the voices of these volunteers as they fought to find solutions to their situations.

Chief Deputy Donnie Seitz of the Henderson County Sheriff's Department moderated the meeting. He passed out literature pertaining to ambulance and fire dispatch policies in regards to ambulance calls.

Seitz noted that most importantly is to get the emergency personnel to the patient in a timely fashion. This is frustrating, as the number of volunteers is down, making it more difficult to contact and dispatch a crew to the person/persons in need.

Among those present included Eric Bullinger, Burlington, EMS Captain (Burlington contracts with Henderson County for the Gulfport area); Dr. Clifford Herman, Galesburg, EMS Director of Henderson County; Dick Paul, Monmouth, Regional Director of Ambulance Services; Troy Jern, Oquawka, Fire Chief of Oquawka, EMT; Tammy Bundy, Oquawka, Oquawka Ambulance Director; Reverend Dick Johnson, Director of Biggsville Ambulance, Scott Ford, Stronghurst, MST Fire Chief; Mary Parsons, Gladstone, Gladstone Ambulance; David Stewart, Gladstone, Gladstone Fire Chief; Bill Ewing, Biggsville, Biggsville Fire Chief and several EMTs. Most of the villages were represented with emergency response personnel.

Seitz explained that some of the dispatching policies at the Sheriff's Office had changed and these changes were noted in the hand outs. These were created to speed up patient contact times.

All of village ambulances are under one department, the Henderson County Ambulance Department. Seitz noted that some times it takes more than thirty minutes to get an ambulance to the patient. The group meeting this evening, are attempting to decrease these crucial minutes, allowing the ambulance to arrive earlier.

Sometimes an ambulance is paged three or four times in three or four minutes, when it is realized that no one is available from that area. So, then the next closest area to the patient is called out and paged. Some calls are paged for ten minutes before going to the next.

Seitz noted that Henderson County does not have 9-1-1 addressing. "This makes communication difficult," said Seitz. He also included a question sheet to ask the person calling in for an ambulance. Sometimes people call in, ask for an ambulance, tell the dispatcher where they live and hang up. It is important, if at all possible for that person to stay on the line, while dispatchers gather your information.

Dr. Herman said that each department needs to prepare schedules for emergency personnel. At the time there are no schedules. This is one solution, although difficult to do, because county emergency personnel are volunteers and most have other jobs and things which keep them busy.

It was noted that it is very difficult to get younger people to volunteer their time. Some are beginning families, which makes it nearly impossible. Someone suggested a class geared towards high school age students. They would need to be 18 years old to be an EMT or First Responder.

There is an EMT class beginning soon. Anyone wishing to know the particulars about this needs to call the Henderson County Sheriff's Department.

Raritan is the smallest of the communities in Henderson County, but they managed to be the first department to have a First Responder Group. This is another possible solution. First Responders are just that, first responders to a scene or home where help is needed. There are certain things First Responders can do to be very helpful in emergency situations. The class for First Responders is shorter than the EMT class, 60 hours.

These are just some of the solutions discussed at this most recent meeting. There will be another meeting held at the Presbyterian Church in Biggsville on November 5 at 7 p.m.