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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Cocke Public Safety Committee
Members of the Cocke County Public Safety meeting this week took up several issues dealing with First Call EMS. At the June meeting of the committee, concerns were raised regarding the handling of patients who are having cognitive issues. Employees of Rural Medical Services reported that CEO Larry Stanifer suffered a diabetic issue but the EMT's who responded were hesitant to take the patient to the hospital because he voiced a hesitancy to go. Then as he climbed into the ambulance, Standifer collapsed and sustained a leg injury. But at the meeting this week, the committee did not take up the issue or a resolution. Lindsey Ellison of First Call reportedly had submitted a follow-up report to Cocke County Mayor Crystal Ottinger but that report was not made public. Member Forrest Clevenger voiced concerns that First Call under the contract is to have two ambulances in the county at all times, but on occasion when a patient is being transported to an out of county hospital, there is only one available ambulance. As a result, the Newport Rescue Squad has had to be called in. Ellison said there are three ambulances stationed in Cocke County on a 24 hour basis plus a “day ambulance” five to six days a week. And Keith Douglas also of First Call said it is almost impossible to guarantee that an ambulance will always be available. Additionally, there have been issues with regard to the maintenance of the ambulance building on Jones Circle. Ellison said she understood that the contract provides for the ambulance service to make interior repairs and the outside repairs are the responsibility of the county. But members of the committee were told that First Call is responsible for both interior and exterior repairs. The committee agreed to delay further discussion on that issue until the contract can be reviewed by the members. There are concerns also that outside agencies have to be called in to provide lifting service for patients. Member Terry Dawson pointed out that when an outside agency is called to provide lifting assistance, the ambulance service keeps all the bill proceeds while the assisting agency receives nothing. The committee was told that several residents call frequently and billing for the call is made only if there is a transport. Instituting a bill for lifting may be a way to encourage the patient to look for alternative resources. Ellison said on Monday one patient called for lifting assistance five times, but was not transported, so there was no charge. A training session may be arranged so that volunteer firefighters can respond to lift requests in their community, in an effort to free up ambulances. Dawson also expressed concern regarding the response time of ambulances. Ellison pointed out that outlying areas and terrain do delay response times. She said Newport firemen and Parrottsville Volunteer firefighters have been trained to respond to medical emergencies, and future training sessions may be offered for other volunteer fire departments.

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