Ambulance wait times huge topic of discussion during Chatham Co. legislative luncheon

Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 4:40 PM EST
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Chatham County Commissioners met with state legislators to find solutions to several community concerns including long ambulance wait times. An issue that folks in Chatham County and across Georgia have felt for the past few years.

During the luncheon, Chatham County Commissioner Aaron Whitely, who also serves on the Chatham Emergency Services board, gave suggestions to legislators in the state house and senate on how they could go about fixing the problem of emergency vehicles being stuck at hospitals, delaying ambulance response times.

Wall time is the amount of time an ambulance is at a hospital waiting to transfer a patient to the hospital’s care. At the luncheon, Chatham Emergency Management Agency Director Dennis Jones said an ideal wait time is 15 to 30 minutes. Over the past two years, ambulances with Chatham Emergency Services have waited 1 to 2 hours at hospitals.

“We have at times had upwards of four or five vehicles at our hospitals and unable to actually answer to calls,” Whitely said.

Whitely mentioned staffing issues are a part of the problem at hospitals and Chatham Emergency Services. He asked law makers at the discussion to consider reimbursing Chatham Emergency Services for ambulance visits for Medicare patients that don’t result in being taken to a hospital. This way they generate more money to hire more staff.

“Just trying to find ways to lessen the overhead burden of our ambulance services to where they can free up some cash or capital to pay for more EMTs.”

State Sen. Derek Mallow says lawmakers are working with hospitals on this issue.

“We’re going to have to work with the general assembly to address this. We know that it is a major issue,” Sen. Mallow said.

He hopes expanding Medicaid services could also help with the wait times.

“We know that Medicaid expansion is a portion of this and could alleviate some of the burden. It will not alleviate it all, but it will help move us forward as we look at people who could get preventative routine care to reduce those who have the demand on the emergency room,” Sen. Mallow said.

Lawmakers will introduce new laws they want passed during the legislative session in January.