By Bonnie Culverhouse
Webster Parish has been operating with only one ambulance service for the past few weeks, however, following a public hearing last week and a board vote, Advanced EMS’ contract with E911 has been renewed.
“We’ve been able to add on to our staff,” said Advanced EMS owner Gary Jones. “We can be up and running by January 17.”
The Webster Parish Police Jury and 911 board have been receiving complaints of noncompliance – primarily from Fire District 11 in the northern part of the parish – concerning Advanced EMS since September 2020.
“We received complaints that Advanced EMS was sending basic life support trained crews to calls,” 911 Director Angie Chapman said. “The ordinance requires that any response to a 911 call has to be an ALS truck.”
According to the ordinance, (ALS) Advanced life support means advanced prehospital emergency medical care rendered by personnel certified at the EMT-intermediate and EMT-paramedic level and working under direct orders from physicians at a resource hospital.
(BLS) Basic life support means noninvasive prehospital emergency medical care rendered by personnel certified at the EMT-basic level.
“The complaints were that Advanced EMS was consistently sending trucks with BLS capabilities only,” Chapman said. “Springhill (Fire district 11) at that time ran first responders or EMR, which are Emergency Medical Responders. Some of those firemen were trained as paramedic or advanced EMT or above.
“What happens on a call is you get there and if the patient requires advanced life support then they cannot release that patient to someone who is not also advanced life support,” she continued. “When you have a basic truck going to a call that is already receiving advanced life support intervention, they can’t release that patient to them.”
Each time that occurred, Springhill firemen were required to ride to the hospital on the ambulance, taking them away from any fire duties. The other option was to await another ambulance carrying ALS crew members.
“It was problematic for the personnel and the patients,” Chapman said.
After several complaints, as well as unfulfilled promises from Jones to correct the situation, the board chose not to renew his contract application in November 2021.
Allen Mosley, FNP, and coroner for Webster Parish, told the 911 board members that he had paramedics working in Minden Medical Center’s emergency room because of lack of medical staff at this time.
“We don’t need to be without two (ambulance) companies in this parish,” he said.
Pafford EMS owner Greg Pafford agreed, saying it had been a hardship for his paramedics over the past two months. They have no BLS units answering calls, he said, only ALS.
“It’s been tough,” Pafford said. “We’ve been here 20 years, and we have good working relations with Advanced.”
Chapman said EMS personnel and paramedics are difficult to find at this time. Many more are needed.
The 911 board voted to renew Advanced’s contract for 60 days however, they will review the situation at the next board meeting.