Published November 19, 2014

Chief briefs County on ambulance & fire

Courtesy The Wiregrass Farmer
The Turner County EMS and Fire Department are overseen by Chief Robby Royal. He recently briefed the County Commissioners on both departments.

“Our call volume is up. We are basically the hospital for a lot of people,” he said. Call volume also increases on the weekend and at night when the two medical clinics in town are closed, he said.

“You are the only healthcare we have after 5 o’clock,” said Commission Chairman Sam McCard.

The Emergency Medical Service (EMS) is financially supported by taxpayers and by bills the EMS sends out. The EMS runs $1.1 million a year. The Commissioners budgeted $570.000 in collections for the fiscal year, about half the EMS budget.

“Everything is billed out within 36 hours,” he said. He explained the EMS tries to get bills to the insurance service before hospital and doctor bills are sent.

The ambulance crews have also gone wireless. They file reports on an iPad and then upload information when and where needed.

EMS has two stations, headquarters on the east side of Ashburn and Station 2 at the Eureka Campus. The department has 14 full time employees which include Mr. Royal and an office manager, both of who are paramedics and will respond to emergency calls if needed. The department has 12 part-time people. Commissioner Brad Calhoun is an EMT and fireman in the department.

The ambulance crews, and fire department, have regular training. Chief Royal said 95 percent of the EMS training is done here, which saves the County money.

EMS has several ambulances, including advanced life support trucks. As Turner County does not have a hospital, the EMS has received grants from the Georgia Trauma Foundation to buy new ambulances and equipment for those units.

Chief Royal proposed getting a new ambulance every three years. He plans to ask for one in the next fiscal budget.

This rotation would retire an ambulance when it reaches about 200,000 miles.

Most recently the EMS received an “Interosseous Drill” for tapping into bones to do an IV. Mr. Royal assured the Commissioners it is a real drill. In fact, he was on the scene of an accident in Coverdale prior to the Commission meeting when the drill was used. A wreck victim had multiple fractures in both arms. The drilled was used to tap into the tibia, a lower leg bone, to start an IV.

The EMS has also received money from the Tift Regional Medical Center Foundation for equipment. The most recent equipment contribution from this Foundation was cardiac life packs. Chief Royal said Tift Regional is typically generous to the EMS here because 96 percent of patients who go by ambulance are taken to Tifton.

Chief Royal oversees stations across the County, which are staffed by volunteers and the EMS staff.

The budget is around $72,500 per year. This is almost all paid by taxpayers. The Fire Department does bill insurance for some calls.

He told the Commissioners the County fire department really needs more volunteers.

Chief Royal suggested the Commissioners consider a $25 per firefighter per month retirement plan. After a firefighter is fully vested in the retirement, it will not cost the County anything.

“$25 per firefighter participating in 50 percent of the calls and 50 percent of the training. It would be an incentive to get firefighters in it,” he said.

The County’s firefighting pump trucks were tested in May and all passed. This was after a company came and serviced the units.

“We got three fire knockers from Georgia Forestry,” he said. The units are being worked on. Once in operation, this gives the fire department the ability to go into woods and across fields to fight fires without worrying about getting stuck.

New, a unit costs $148.000. The Fire Department paid $100 per truck.

The fire department also got 8 surplus pumps, which had never been used. New, each one is $5,400. The County paid $100.

The fire department also got a large generator with a bright light pole. It will “light up a 75 acre field,” Chief Royal said. New it costs $96K. The County paid $100.

“I was offered $55K by the company that built it,” he said.

More lights, valued at around $11K, were also bought for $100.

The fire department a tad over $1.500 with Georgia Forestry and came back to Turner County is more than $600,000 in vehicles and equipment.

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