Thomas Co. commissioners improve EMS service to rural areas

Thomas Co. commissioners improve EMS service to rural areas
Posted at 1:03 AM, Jul 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-18 21:09:45-04

THOMAS CO., GA (WALB) - Around 4,400 people who live out in the rural parts of Thomas county could now see faster EMS response times.

Commissioners passed a motion Monday night to add advanced life support or ALS units to fire stations out in Ochlocknee, Coolidge and Boston.

This issue came up for discussion during the commissioners' discussion on the idea of privatizing their EMS services.

When the four ambulances in Thomas County head to calls, the response time averages five to eight minutes.

But commissioners said when you get outside that seven-mile radius into rural parts of the county, it takes much longer to get there.

"Five to eight minutes response times in here versus, at this time, 20ish minutes in this neighborhood right here," said Mark NeSmith, chairman of the Emergency Services Committee.

"If their dad, husband or wife falls into cardiac arrest, you have four to six minutes before there is brain damage. Ten minutes you are biologically dead," said Hal Pullen.

Pullen, is the chief operating officer of Gold Star EMS and also lives in Thomas County.

Pullen said improving these response times in rural Thomas County areas could save someone's life.

A unanimous vote from commissioners will allow stations out in Ochlocknee, Coolidge and Boston to cross-train firefighters and EMS personnel so everyone can respond to those calls when needed.

They are also adding Advanced Life Support units out at those stations as well.

"We have more uniform level of service throughout the county," said County Manager Mike Stephenson.

This decision has been a long time coming but Stephenson said he feels that it's a decision residents in rural Thomas County will be happy about.

"It's an exciting opportunity and I look forward to seeing this put in place," said Stephenson.

The commissioners did not vote to switch the EMS services here in Thomas County to a private service.

They will hire a private billing company.

The company is guaranteeing a revenue increase of $500,000.

County commissioners said they expect to save almost $200,000 annually by cross-training staff and locating those additional units out at the rural county stations.

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