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Athens' Ambulance Service Response Times Under Scrutiny

Online Athens

Athens for Everyone says ambulance service in Athens-Clarke County fails to meet response times. According to a media release from the group, National EMS, the company contracted to run ambulance service, only responded to 39 percent of 9-1-1 calls within 9 minutes, and only 48.5 percent within 10 minutes.

The group filed an Open Records request through the Georgia Department of Public Health. Athens for Everyone says the numbers were processed according to standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Don Cargile, National EMS Community Relations Director says the coverage area affects times.

“National EMS covers three counties in the is region,” Cargile said.“

"It covers Athens-Clarke, they cover Oconee and Morgan. Oconee and Morgan are rural counties so response times will be a little bit greater in those two counties. It also includes the priority one calls and the priority two calls. The emergencies with lights and sirens and the non-emergencies. The majority of our calls don’t require a time-sensitive response.”

Athens for Everyone claims National EMS takes ambulances out of emergency service for non-emergency transport.

Cargile says that National EMS’s dispatch center prioritizes emergency calls, and that that kind of prioritization is necessary for public safety.

ACC Assistant Manager Jestin Johnson says the county has a good relationship with National. Johnson says it would cost the county $4.5 to $5 million to start its own ambulance service. Athens and Oconee Counties both contribute $100,000 per year to national. St. Mary’s and Piedmont Athens Regional hospitals also contribute.

Johnson went on to say that the Athens-Clarke Fire Chief, Jeff Scarbrough, is a member of the EMS Oversight Committee and more than 60 percent of the county's firefighters are certified EMTs.