York County can’t have rescue squads racing to the scene of emergencies, trying to be the first to provide services and endangering people in the process. But the stopgap plan to allow Piedmont Medical Center to dispatch ambulances for the whole county was doomed from the start.
The county now relies on a dual dispatch system, calling on pairs of rescue squads – including PMC and volunteer squads – to report to an accident. Then, whichever arrives first administers aid while the other ambulance goes home after a fruitless trip.
The county used this system because it doesn’t have the technology to pinpoint the location of every ambulance and decide which is closest to the scene of the emergency. PMC, however, does have a GPS system that can locate ambulances so dispatchers can identify which one is closest to a call.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control, which regulates ambulances, wasn’t comfortable with the county’s system of dispatching dueling ambulances, and told county officials to find a better system soon. The county reasoned that a temporary solution would be to let PMC, with its GPS system, dispatch all ambulances.
But officials hadn’t counted on objections from the various rescue squads that operate in the county. Nonprofit squads that have been operating autonomously for years told county officials they didn’t think PMC would give everyone a fair shake at answering calls.
Anna Moore, assistant York County manager, conceded that the relationship between Piedmont and other rescue services has always been “challenging.” Choosing not to make matters worse, the county abandoned the plan to designate PMC as the county’s sole ambulance dispatcher.
That probably was the most prudent approach. Whether the complaints were valid or not, this was a no-win proposal for Piedmont.
But the county shouldn’t have much trouble coming up with an alternative plan – namely taking over dispatching duties itself. The county already is committed to buying new dispatching software, which should preclude the need to send out two units to the same scene.
County officials and rescue squads concur on the need to standardize emergency services countywide. Rescue squad officials also want to ensure that county standards are consistent with those already required by the state.
The county and the emergency squads should be able to work out these wrinkles amicably. After all, the goal for all concerned is to get qualified personnel to the scene as quickly as possible.
Putting the county in charge of dispatching emergency crews is a much better way to accomplish that than the current system and makes more sense over the long haul than temporarily turning the duty over to Piedmont.