AUGUSTA, Ga. —Augusta’s next EMS provider could be asked to supply ambulance dispatch and response times, vehicle counts and GPS locations and report to a city EMS contract manager.
Talks continued Thursday about what the city should require of its emergency medical provider by an Augusta Commission committee chaired by Commissioner Ben Hasan.
Augusta 911 Director Daniel Dunlap said Richmond County 911 operators typically take 20 seconds to take down a caller’s address and forward the call to Gold Cross EMS if the caller needs emergency medical care. The operator records the time the call came in and the time it was transferred but lacks access to additional provider data such as dispatch and arrival times, Dunlap said.
To a question from committee member Commissioner John Clarke, Dunlap said more call information would help the department.
“I believe that would help us have a better idea of how long it takes between the time the individual has reached the 911 center until the time that we have an ambulance that’s on the way,” Dunlap said.
Augusta officials are considering whether to extend or modify the contract with Gold Cross, which has state-designated access to all Richmond County EMS calls. With the contract has typically come a hefty subsidy intended to cover indigent or unreimbursed care.
Other useful call data would include whether an ambulance was diverted to a higher-priority call, Dunlap said.
Software exists that could gather the data from the separate 911 and provider systems and share it with each, he said.
The data is currently housed at Gold Cross. Dunlap said the private provider might not be required to release it under Georgia open records laws.
Generally, state law considers data compiled by government contractors, not including personal medical or confidential public safety information, to be a public record.
The data is useful but less so when Augusta is appropriately staged with ambulances, interim Fire Chief Shaw Williams said.
“Data becomes less important if we have the appropriate number of units assigned to our county,” Williams said.
First-responder paramedic firefighters often can get a patient stabilized and ready to move, but “that patient still needs to be transported in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.
Commissioner Sammie Sias said Augusta’s daytime population swells by 100,000 because of commuting workers and asked how many ambulances that requires to be on duty. Williams said 10 to 12 during peak hours.
City Administrator Odie Donald said that without more data, the number can be used as a baseline, depending on “what the zone provider agreement says” and “how you plan to or what you plan to supplement, that commitment could go up or down.”
At the committee’s next meeting, Hasan said, he wants to discuss exactly what the state requires of a “zone provider,” which is the designation Gold Cross has. Hasan said the presentation could be made by the law department.
State regulations say a zone provider is a state-licensed EMS agency providing ground, air or neonatal ambulance service to a zone it has been granted. The provider is required to keep a dispatch record of the date, time and source of a call, patient location, apparent problems, time dispatched, arrived and leaving the scene, the patient destination and time of arrival.
Also on the next agenda is whether Augusta should designate someone to serve as contract manager.