New Georgia bill aims to reduce wait times for ambulances

College Park Fire Department
College Park Fire Department(Atlanta News First)
Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 7:09 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - There is no time to wait when someone’s health is in jeopardy, but currently in Georgia some ambulances are not allowed to drive you to the hospital. New legislation hopes to fix this.

College Park Fire Chief Wade Elmore says lives are being put at risk. He says a system dating back to the 1980s that governs which ambulance services can take patients to the hospital is slowing down response times - when minutes matter.

“If you dial 911 here in the City of College Park. Our city is 11 square miles, we can get on seen within 4 1/2, five minutes. But our units must sit on the scene with the patient, and we cannot transport them unless it’s a life-threatening situation,” said Chief Wade Elmore, College Park.

RELATED: In an emergency, expect to wait 30 minutes for an ambulance in Atlanta.

Under the current system, the state of Georgia assigns ambulance providers; sometimes private, sometimes taxpayer-funded to a service zone.

In this case, Grady EMS covers South Fulton County which includes College Park. Chief Elmore says all too often his paramedics and the patient can wait up to an hour for a state-authorized transport ambulance.

“A patient who had mild chest pain where we had to sit on scene and wait for an ambulance. After 20 minutes or so, conditions changed, the person has gone into cardiac arrest,” said Chief Elmore.

House Bill 124 would upend the current system. The new proposed legislation under the gold dome would allow local fire departments like College Park to treat and then quickly rush the patient to the hospital.

But organizations like the Georgia EMS Association which represent EMS providers, paramedics, and EMTs say the current system isn’t the problem.

“EMS isn’t perfect, but the zoning rules and the way that it works now, it’s working in about 90% of the places in the state now. If the city has an issue with its zone provider there are processes, they can go through. One of those is to approach the region EMS council and show what the problems are,” said Chad Black, of the Georgia EMS Association.

Black says he recognizes the system isn’t working perfectly in south Fulton County. The solution to that he says isn’t new legislation, but instead better communication.

In fact, he is planning to bring together representatives from each fire department in this area, the region EMS Council, and Grady EMS - so they can fix the problem and reduce those wait times.