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Hoschton/Braselton corridor gets new ambulance unit
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Hall County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Tim Peebles stands behind Station 14's newest truck, an ambulance to provide medical service for the Hoschton/Braselton area. The ambulance availability in the area will shave important minutes off time it takes for a patient to be taken to the hospital.

In times of medical emergency, a 10-minute wait for an ambulance can seem like a lifetime and cost a life.

And in fast-growing South Hall, the need for those ambulances has never been greater. In tight budget times, providing better emergency response coverage for the Hoschton/Braselton area in the absence of money for new ambulances has required refurbishing and moving some equipment around.

Officials say staying on top of the demand for emergency services has been a full-time endeavor as the population within Hall County’s 420 square miles continues to expand. Of the approximately 25,000 calls that Hall County Fire Services responded to in 2007, more than 14,000 involved emergency medical service.

"If you look at the increase in (Hall County’s) population, you can see an exponential increase in call volume," Hall County Emergency Medical Services Coordinator Tim Peebles said.

Today, for the first time since Hall County Fire Station No. 14 off Spout Springs Road opened two years ago, a reconditioned 20,000 pound Freightliner ambulance, or "med unit," described by officials as a "emergency room on wheels," will roll out.

Since the station at the edge of the upscale Reunion subdivision opened in 2006, paramedics and emergency medical technicians rode to scenes in fire engines and relied on ambulances from surrounding county fire stations to transport patients. That reliance meant waits of five minutes, 10 minutes or longer before a patient could be taken to the closest hospital after first responders arrived.

Peebles said those waits "definitely" can make a difference. In some cases involving severe trauma, an airborne transport by helicopter is deemed necessary.

Station 14, which covers an area from Thompson Mill Road to Gwinnett County and from Spout Springs Road to the Sterling on the Lake subdivision, averages three to four medical-related calls a day. The most common medical calls involve trauma from wrecks or cases involving chest pains.

There are 16 ambulances operated by Hall County Fire Services. Two are dispatched out of Gainesville fire stations, the remaining 14 out of Hall County’s 15 stations. One station, No. 15 off Clarks Bridge Road, does not have an ambulance and relies on med units from other stations when patients must be transported. Its fire engine is equipped with emergency medical equipment.

Peebles said department officials would like to have an ambulance at every station, but requests for two new ambulances — which can cost between $180,000 and $250,000 each — were cut from the most recent proposed budget as the county faces tight financial times.

The ambulance that goes into service today at Station No. 14 was moved from Station No. 5 at Falcons Parkway after three years of service when that station took delivery of a new ambulance. The used ambulance underwent an in-house overhaul that cost less than $1,000 before being moved down the road to a new station.

This shuffling of heavy equipment has occurred more often as the county has grown, Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell said.

"From time to time we must move units around to cover areas where there is high call volume," Kimbrell said.

And since the building boom, "currently the south end of the county is the busiest area of the county," Peebles said.

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