Ambulance response time needs to be fixed

From the Publisher
By: 
David Keyes
Laurel Outlook publisher

Ambulance response time needs to be fixed
The golden hour – or golden time – in emergency medical response terminology states that if emergency care can be given to a patient within an hour of a traumatic injury, the odds a patient will survive jumps dramatically.
Emergency response should be about saving lives. That is at the heart of the discussion the city of Laurel is having with the current volunteer emergency responders and the county.
I have lived in Laurel for a little less than two years. I am lucky enough to have gotten to know a lot of people and am always interested in what they have to say.
One overriding theme – and something that should scare all of us – is that a good percentage of people who have voiced an opinion don’t trust the local ambulance service to respond in a timely manner if there is an emergency.
Several have personal horror stories but most are just repeating stories they have heard from family or friends.
It is not a volunteer problem. We are extremely lucky to have a group of volunteers who will drop what they are doing and come to the rescue. The small group of volunteers does much more than what should be expected and much of this problem might be solved if more folks would get trained and volunteer.
As a story in last week’s Outlook discussed, there were times last year where no ambulance crews responded to several pages and crews had to be sent from as far away as Red Lodge to cover calls.
A move last year to bring the ambulance service under the organized and very efficient Laurel Volunteer Fire Department didn’t seem to solve the problems either.
“It isn’t that they aren’t doing a good job,” said Brad Shoemaker, Yellowstone County Director of Disaster and Emergency Services. “It is really a numbers game. Volunteers are down while calls have increased.”
Shoemaker has been working with Laurel officials to gauge the interest in a countywide rural ambulance special district.
The service would reach 70 percent of the county residents in 15 minutes and an ambulance station would be located in Laurel and staffed 24 hours a day, under one proposal.
The city is intrigued and the proposal has been discussed.
There are still many questions to be asked and answered before this can go forward.
What shouldn’t be lost in any discussion is the heart, spirit and dedication of those who continue to volunteer for our emergency services here. We truly believe they believe in their mission to save lives.
As the calls increase and our population continues to grow every year, the time has come for Laurel to figure out the most reliable method to respond to emergency calls.

David Keyes is the publisher of The Laurel Outlook.

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