A report released last month shows that Columbus and Bartholomew County residents are reaping great benefits from the new contract for emergency ambulance services with Columbus Regional Hospital.
Taxpayers no longer pay a nearly $1 million subsidy for the services, and ambulance service has improved in terms of response times. In fact, response times for the city as a whole and three of its four ambulance regions greatly exceed national standards.
That’s a great credit to city officials, notably Mayor Kristen Brown, who called for a new contract without subsidies. But congratulations are also deserving for county officials and hospital leaders who also negotiated the contract. It’s a credit to the work among them and an ambulance advisory board to ensure that high standards for public emergency services are met.
The report for calendar year 2013 highlighted noteworthy facts:
Ambulances are responding to calls within the city as a whole in 9 minutes or less nearly 95.9 percent of the time, an improvement from 90.3 percent in 2012. The national standard for urban areas is 9 minutes 90 percent of the time.
EMS-1 (north-central region, 98.2 percent), EMS-2 (north-east region, 98.3 percent) and EMS-3 (south-east region, 97.5 percent) are greatly exceeding the national standard.
Ambulances are responding to calls in the county in 18 minutes or less 95.62 percent of the time, even with 95.59 percent in 2012 — and far better than the national rural standard of 18 minutes or less 90 percent of the time.
Additionally, the new contract included the placement of one of the ambulances on Jonathan Moore Pike, a strategic location considering all the businesses, travel lodging and main roadways leading to apartment complexes and homes on the city’s west side.
Another benefit is that Columbus Fire Department has 22 certified paramedics on staff and 12 firefighters in paramedic training, who should be eligible for certification by August. That’s important because it will ensure that a paramedic is available around the clock at each fire station to go on ambulance calls.
There is one statistic in the report that signals a great opportunity. Ambulance station EMS-4, which serves the north and southwest region, including the west side along Jonathan Moore Pike and State Road 46, responded to calls last year in 9 minutes or less 87.3 percent of the time. That’s slightly below the national standard.
The fact that EMS-4 is roughly 3 percentage points below the national standard doesn’t mean that ambulance service to that side of the city is poor. In fact, it can be argued that service has been good considering geography and other factors that work against that ambulance station.
EMS-4 has to travel greater distances in that region compared to other ambulances.
The west side experiences heavy traffic, particularly along Jonathan Moore Pike, which can create bottlenecks.
And slow-moving trains crossing State Road 46 also cause traffic backups.
However, EMS-4’s below-standard response time can’t be ignored or accepted. High standards appropriately have been set for ambulance response times, and they should apply to residents across the city. Also, the city’s west side has seen much commercial and industrial development, as well as a blossoming population.
We expect knowledge gained during the new ambulance contact’s first year will benefit service operators and partners as they come up with improvements for 2014 and beyond. City residents should expect no less.