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editorial Daily mail 12/26/00

December 26, 2000

Non-emergency transports: Do they put citizens at risk?



You've got to give this to officials of Community Rescue Service: If they've got a gripe, they air it, no matter who it ticks off.

First it was the Hagerstown City Council, some of whose members were so irritated by interim director J. Michael Nye's Nov. 22 speech to Hagerstown Rotary that one suggested CRS would be better off with anybody else at the helm. Now it's those who operate the county's other ambulance services that have drawn Nye's fire. He may not be a diplomat, but he raises an interesting point.

Specifically, Nye questions whether some companies' decisions to do so-called "non-emergency" transports (from nursing homes to hospitals, for example) put those who may need emergency service at risk.

This past Tuesday, for example, while one of the two Halfway Volunteer Fire Company ambulances was transporting a patient to a hospital in Washington, D.C., two emergency calls came in. Fortunately, an ambulance from Williamsport was able to respond.

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But what if Williamsport had had an emergency call of its own, and couldn't cover Halfway's emergency? It's something to think about, among other issues, including:

- There are paid, for-profit ambulance services in the county. Is it fair to force them to compete with non-profits for the same business?

- On these long transports, to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., is the county government providing the liability insurance in case a patient dies or is injured enroute? If so, is the carrier okay with that, and more important, are out-of-county transports of a non-emergency nature covered?

This is just one more reason that the county government needs to finish its consideration of the consultant report on fire/rescue services delivered more than a year ago by Carroll Buracker & Associates. If non-emergency transports are going to be a fund-raising activity for the companies, then there has to be some system devised to make sure that there are enough units in service to handle the community's needs when real emergencies arise.

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