Milam County, ambulance provider working to address shortages-progress being made
“I’m willing to try anything to ease the system and help get better care for our citizens in the county.”
BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Delays in ambulance services have been an issue in Milam County since the height of the pandemic. In Rockdale alone, the volunteer fire department has responded to nearly 100 medical calls with significant delays and over 30 calls where no ambulances available.
In August, several families shared their stories of loved ones desperately needing medical attention and not receiving it or having to wait 30 minutes to an hour for care. Since then, Milam County and AMR, the ambulance service provider contracted by the county, have worked to solve these issues. While the shortages have not been fully resolved, county officials say progress is being made.
Milam County Judge Steve Young says the improvements are a welcomed sight but more must be done. Milam County, along with the cities of Rockdale and Cameron, has met with AMR to discuss solutions.
“The discussions have been good. AMR could have come in here and said ‘look, we’re done with you. We don’t want to mess with you. This is not a profitable endeavor.’ They did not. We didn’t say, ‘Hey, we’re through with you. Get out of here.’ What we did was we sat down as professionals and said, ‘what can we do to solve this problem?’” said Young. “We need an ambulance in this county when we need it. Some of these ideas are from AMR. Some of them are the coalition’s ideas, how to piece this thing together. So the talks have been very productive, and I’m very encouraged.”
One solution that has already being implemented is the addition of what the county calls a roaming paramedic and telehealth is another option being discussed.
“Instead of having a paramedic tied to an ambulance, it would be one that’s driving around in a car that could go from scene to scene if needed,” said Young. “We’ve also talked about the use of telehealth and this ambulance problem. That would be where maybe if you use telehealth, you call 911, but you really don’t need an ambulance. You know, you would talk to the paramedic. You say, ‘hey, man, I just scraped my knee. I’ve called 911. Do I really need an ambulance?’”
“Those are the kinds of things that would help cut down on those calls. So I think we’re making progress,” said Young.”
Rockdale Volunteer Fire Chief Herbert Vaughn says he has noticed the improvements.
“The improvements seemed to have helped a little bit. We still have some problems. We’ve not been at level zero like we have been, which is a big improvement,” said Vaughn. “Because level zero means there’s nothing available, and we’re probably going to have to transport to a landing zone in a firetruck to get the patient to the care that they need. It has definitely not solved the problem, but it’s helped a little bit.”
Vaughn says the roaming paramedic is good but doesn’t solve the transportation issue.
“AMR is working with the county and city officials to come up with something to help better staff the ambulances. They have an emergency response vehicle that shows up when they don’t have an ambulance available to assist us, which is a big help,” said Vaughn. “The only issue I had with it is not being able to get somebody if the ambulance is not there. With it being a Ford Explorer, it’s hard to put a patient in the back of a Ford Explorer. It needs to be like an ambulance that’s not in use, that still has a stretcher that we can put the patient on there and transport them to the landing zone if that’s what we need to do.”
“I’m willing to try anything to ease the system and help get better care for our citizens in the county,” said Vaughn.
Young says all parties involved are working hard to develop a solution for the residents of Milam County and the cities of Rockdale and Cameron.
“We know it’s a problem. We’re doing our due diligence to get this fixed, and we’re going to get it fixed. We have to get it fixed. We have to have a good ambulance service in this county, and we are going to get this fixed one way or the other,” said Young.
County and city leaders, along with officials from the surrounding fire departments, will meet with AMR again on Wednesday night to continue discussing solutions. Young says he appreciates the residents and the volunteer fire departments for being patient while improvements are being made.
“The citizens have been great in this county. We’ve had plenty of complaints about it. They ought to be complaining. We’ve had situations where the ambulances weren’t available, and our fire departments have had to fill that void, and I don’t want that,” said Young. “We have volunteer firemen in this county. They do a magnificent job, but they’ve signed on to be firemen, not EMS people. That’s not really their deal, and I hate to force them to go make those calls when that’s not what they’re there for.”
“They’re not getting paid to do all this. This is something they do of their own volition,” said young. “I don’t want to impose on them any more than we already have. That’s why we got to get this fixed.”
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