Hall County officials said this week they will not change their service delivery model following a Georgia Department of Public Health rule change regarding minimum staffing levels on ambulances.
The public health department rule previously held that emergency transports must have at least two people, and one had to be licensed beyond the entry-level emergency medical technician.
After the amendment took effect May 14, both medics could be EMT certified.
In a letter addressing concerns by stakeholders, the department said it believes “that ambulance services and their medical directors should have the ability to determine their minimum staffing levels when transporting patients.”
Capt. Zachary Brackett said the county currently exceeds the requirement and will maintain paramedic-level care and advanced life support care on the ambulances.
Paramedics have more training hours and are licensed to do more than the levels below them, such as manually defibrillate patients and administer more drugs.
Brackett said the rule change would allow more flexibility especially in the more rural communities.
“What this is designed for is smaller communities with a smaller population, where maybe they only have one … or two ambulances in the county and they just don’t have the personnel to be able to man that,” Brackett said.
There are two budgets that fund the Hall County Fire Services.
In the EMS budget, there are nine vacancies for firefighter/EMTs and one EMS sergeant vacancy.
In the fire services budget, there are 11 vacancies for firefighter/EMTs and one vacancy for a lieutenant.
Responding to comments about a lowered standard of care, the public health department said it was setting a minimum standard that would increase “the ability to meet the transportation needs across all communities in the state.”
Others were concerned that the amendment would allow EMS providers to replace paramedics with EMTs as a cost-saving measure. The public health department responded by saying it observed “an overwhelming practice across the state that 911 ambulance services voluntarily exceed the current minimum requirement” by using at least one paramedic.
Brackett referenced a nationwide shortage for emergency medical service providers.
“Am I going to make more money in Cordele or am I going to make more money in Atlanta?” Brackett asked as a hypothetical. “I’m probably going to make more money in Atlanta, so the problem is the rural areas are having trouble keeping people for a long period of time. This gives them some flexibility.”